There are some things that money cannot move. For a sentimental man such as myself, those items can seem strange to some- and possibly objectionable to others. For me, many of the things that I possess have attached to them something more than the sum of their components. The flag that’s folded up in my plate carrier that went with me on each of my deployments- was with me during the November 2004 assault on Fallujah Iraq as well as our short stint in the 2003 war- is like a religious totem. Each time my eyes fall upon it, they begin to burn as I think of the trials that the flag and I were a part of.
And so to the most strange of totems that I possess. A 250 Dinar note that was signed by many of the members of my platoon during our aforementioned 2004 excursion to Iraq. Seeing the note, my mind is taken back to the faces and the days of my youth when I ran with the very best men that America could offer. There are expletives written on the note alongside signatures alongside quotes. Inside jokes that only we would know- or maybe only that I still remember. The soul crushing knowledge that one of our number from that deployment couldn’t stand the weight anymore for whatever reason and decided to end it.
We survived so much, and in most ways, asked so little in return. Now that we are creeping into the latter half of our lives, the totality of what we have done weighs on each of us differently. Some have been through a few marriages, some have gone on to success beyond their wildest dreams. Still others- like myself- plow our way through life not really sure if we’re doing it right, or if our voices will matter in the long haul, but assured that what we have done and what we will do will indeed matter.
Because all of us left someone behind in the sand. All of us feel the sting of loss that accompanies the privileged service that we were fortunate enough to have delivered to our nation- no matter how ungrateful or uncaring it is. Platitudes, and free meals, and “thanks for your service” do little to ease the pain that some of us feel. The first day of summer comes each year, and for many of us, we think of what the fruits of our lives have truly cost and how little is given in return for the price by the people we chose to protect, and a little piece of us breaks. New mental scar tissue is formed, and the day after that small celebration is carried off, after the 12oz cans of beer are drunk and the brats are eaten, we return to our lives, and the reason for the day is once again forgotten by the masses.
The sacrifices of those we hold as close as any kin are forgotten faster than they are remembered, and the hollow words said by politicians and those who will never know the true scorn of war’s wrath move onto the next thing. By fate or by design that “next thing” is a celebration of sexual freedom, debauchery, and gratification. Knowing some of those men I served with as well as I do- it’s oddly fitting that their sacrifice would be followed so closely by the celebration of excess that is “Pride Month.”
To some, that last paragraph is blasphemy. To call “Pride Month” as anything other than a celebration of who certain people are is analogous to calling a certain prophet a pedophilic snake oil salesman trying to keep himself from getting lynched, or Jesus Christ a socialistic proto-hippy. And therein is the beauty of what my brothers in arms who never made it home paid for- the ability to speak our minds freely, live our lives openly, and hold our opinions honestly. They’ve paid the price of our inheritance in a way that the vast majority of people living blindly by their desires never will. That those people never would.
And they did it willingly, even if in the moment they didn’t want to. They left wives, and children, and parents behind to mourn their absence, and deal daily with the hole left in their wake. Whether they died on the field of battle, or in the fell trauma of PTSD, they gave all so we could hold parades with grown assed men wearing dildo dresses and dog collars. To celebrate “pride” not in our nation or the heroes who paid the boatman for our collective embarrassment- but ourselves and our dalliances.
Typing this now, there is a familiar catch in my throat and burning in my eyes. Is this the future that those men paid for? Is this where we are going to let things go? Some of my brothers will be upset with what I have penned here tonight in this post Memorial Day rant. Others will agree, and still others will agree that this is what our honored dead have paid for and honor my ability to say it even if they don’t agree with what I say.
Because to us- the American Experiment isn’t just a theory. It’s not words on a piece of paper, or the speeches given by our elected representatives. It’s not a slogan, or the vain attempt at salvaging a brand by putting camo on a can. It’s the things that our family bled for, fought for- died for. We owe it to them to stand tall on our convictions, and call a spade a spade. We owe it to the children they may have left behind, or that we ourselves are raising now to honor that lineage of our most noble and honored dead. To shed no tears for the feelings of those who may take offense, and to let them flow in private while recalling the good times we shared with them in their living days.
At the very least, I owe them that.
Until Valhalla my brothers. Whatever ill you held on your soul- I take freely on my shoulders. You are gone, but not forgotten. You are dead, but still alive. No matter where I go, you will always be by my side.