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Memorial Day — Remember the Heroes

Is there any greater hero than a person who has served their country?

Two young people. Two guns pointed at each other. This isn't Broadway. One of them may not be getting up after this encounter. Each one is compelled by orders to shoot. Each one of them has a family, a friend, a lover somewhere at home — wherever that may be. One of them will not have them at the end of that encounter.

And so this scenario goes on — in 2012 and beyond. The fact that we have such a diverse body of people on this planet and still continue to settle some of our disputes this way would seem hard to imagine. But when I think of the many young people in this country and the world that are forced to settle a dispute of national leaders and priorities in this manner, I can hardly find a current cause worthy of putting them at the front of death's way. Bin Laden? C'mon — he robbed this country of countless young people with 21 box cutters. Iraq — well, we never did find those WMD's did we? The cause should always be questioned when it risks our most valuable possessions — our people, family and loved ones.

But in this very intertwined world, when we take the life of another — are we really justified or even smarter in doing so? Is the ruination of anyone's son or daughter worth the cause? This isn't to say that at times in history and lives their wasn't a cause just enough — but in 2012 and beyond — have we become any smarter in evaluating this life altering decision? Every life is valuable. American or otherwise.

There is no greater hero, in my mind, than those soldiers in Iraq or Afganistan. Standing guard or walking a street of open windows and apartments — well if that doesn't change your life nothing will. I am glad many have come home. I am still upset that so many are still there. I am humbled by their dedication and service. Bring them home. In my eyes, this cause is not just enough to shed blood or tears. They are heroes and celebrities. You want a fair tax — let every Wall Street Banker and Detroit auto exec who was bailed out have to support or hire returning soldiers from these wars. 

The greatest tribute we can have to our past soldiers who have died for us is to make sure it never happens again. To the families and friends of those who have perished, my thanks could never convey my gratitute. To those long gone, whose shoulders we have stood upon to make this the greatest, most peaceful nation on the planet — I hope we can one day make you proud.

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Aidan May 28, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Mother Nights Mothers don't pray like the rest of us. I learned that long ago. Have a brother at war and you'll learn a lot of things about your mother. Sure, she seems to be the same Mom. The house works, the other kids go about growing up and the mundane and ordinary seem to be the substance of the days. But not the nights. Night's a different story. No meals or laundry or drop-offs. No daily routines scheduled. No searches for missing gloves or shoes or books.. No school project solving or whispers to grow up on. No friend analysis or girlfriend observations. Or rah-rahs from the stands. Nope. Nights belong to the son on the other side of the world. Far from a phone. Far from home. And her nights are almost silent. But not entirely. Because she thinks the house is wrapped in sleep, so her prayer-murmurs seem safe from others' ears. But she's tricked by the silence of the dark because her whispers might as well be cathedral bells in the still of the night. It's an odd whisper, too. Almost breathy and punctuated by "siss" after "siss". That's the give away that it's a prayer. The whisper itself speaks. Not every word is clear and catchable. But it's not hard to swallow the gist. And then you get the the give-away cue. "Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum …"
Aidan May 28, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Then you know she's half way around the world as well. Oh, you can hear her voice … somewhat. And even see the night light through the crack of the door. But she's not really there. I heard that silent racket every night. For years. Ever since my Marine-brother moved to the coast, then Hawaii … each a step to Vietnam. A fourteen thousand mile step from Gramercy Place. All the brothers were sort of awed by the sheer distance. But my Mother never seemed troubled by the distance at all. She was troubled by the powerlessness. There was nothing in her past to show her how to intervene, how to help her son, how to soothe the moment or battle the fear. There wasn't any parental trick in her sack for this type of stuff. So she did what she knew how to do. She prayed. "Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus."
Aidan May 28, 2012 at 12:54 PM
At thirteen, with a little luck, you finally (sorta) get past yourself. And a sleepy trek down the upstair's hallway at 2 a.m. … surrounded by loud whispers … will get you all the way past yourself. Because now you're eavesdropping on something sacred. The type of whisper tells you that. It's part prayer and part plea. You can only make out pieces of words here and there. But you understand it all perfectly. You don't need any help like you do with Shakespeare. There's no riddle to unravel. There's no real secret at all. You hear some words and you know the message. You know who she's really talking to … and you feel she's being listened to. "Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus," And there you stand. In the dark. In the hallway. Nothing to see and almost … almost … nothing to hear. But it all seems so volumed-up because the silence is so loud. And you know the next prayer-line. And the one word in that prayer-line that has to be a rugged whisper for that lady. The one word and the one phrase she doesn't want to say, but has no choice. Not if it's to be a successful plea. "nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen." "Now and at the hour of our death. Amen." That's the phrase that brings a pause. Until it all begins again. Over and over and over. Part mantra. Part plea. But all pain.
Aidan May 28, 2012 at 12:55 PM
And for too long that was the night noise at Gramercy Place. I know others heard it as well. It happened every night. There were too many other sons there. But not a one has ever mentioned it … even almost fifty years later. It was a moment we were all privy to. And not a part of. And not offended at all. Because we all understood, in our own way, that this had nothing to do with us. Or war. Or miles. This had to do with a mother and a son. And a mother willing her son home. To her. Alive. So, once again. "Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum …"

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