A few years ago Memorial Day was, to me, simply another excuse for the Army to give us a four-day weekend. Good for a quick trip to the beach, a barbeque, maybe an alcoholic run or two. Its significance was lost on me, as it remains lost on most Americans. I mean, Memorial Day, right? A day where disgruntled Vietnam Vets and geriatric World War II Vets gathered together to remember the glorious or not-so-glorious days. That's all it was. All I had to do was wave a couple of American flags and I had done my part.
Then Omer Hawkins died.
Still, Memorial Day remained just another day among days. I was out of the Army when Hawkins was killed, and I had yet to feel any sort of nostalgia for my time as a paratrooper.
Last year, though, it all changed. Four more people that I had known were killed. Not all at once, mind you, but somehow in one of life's little ironies, I found out about all of them on the same day. Four people. None that I had known well, but four that I had known. Add to that a close friend, Greg Robinson, losing a leg, and I had quickly gone from a good day to one of the worst in memory.
And so, here I am on the first Memorial Day since I found out Webb, Flores, Rafferty, and a fourth whose name dishearteningly eludes me (how fucked up is that? I can't even recall his name). I could go to the beach like everyone else, I suppose. But I'm mysteriously sick, and have been for a week now. I guess I'm meant to stay home, in this strange house, and actually observe Memorial Day the way it shoud be observed: in silence, with nothing for company but memory.
After all, it's just another day...