Monday, May 31, 2010

Hopeless Memories

I didn't want to write about Memorial Day again... not for a while. But I've been mentally exhausted since Saturday. At first I didn't know why, but then the dawn of realization crept up on me. Blinded me, really. I should've known better, but I can honestly state that even with awareness of the encroaching "holiday," it took me by surprise.

The old (and dishearteningly accurate) cliché is that ignorance is bliss. Memorial Day was a far better weekend back when there was no one to remember. But those days are long ago, never to return. And the fucking list just keeps getting longer.

Sure, I can bitch about the wars, the politics behind the wars, the politicians behind the politics, and the seemingly ignorant voters (blissful voters, perhaps) behind the politicians, but that's never been and never will be the point behind being in the military. Not for me, anyway. Soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, whomever... they don't care. It's a job. And as blasé as that may seem, it's how most active service-members and veterans view it. There are no politics at the bottom levels. Only co-workers and friends.

Some of these men and women will continue to spend Memorial Day the way they've always spent it. With friends and family at the beach, or at a barbecue, or at an amusement park, or wherever it is their own personal traditions dictate that they go. For many, the status quo is a safety net... their way to cope. For others, it's a preservation of something. But they'll notice something different. They have no other choice.

Me, though. I'll be somewhere, lost in thought. It is a strange biological clock that reminds someone that it's time to be a little depressed and more reverent than usual. There's no point in fighting it. I'm already mentally exhausted, after all... why add physical exhaustion to the fold?

My time in the military - both the direct and indirect involvement - is now safely over. This newer status is likely never to change again and, for that, there is a small modicum of gratitude. But memories of names and faces remain, along with questions both hypothetically useless and hyperrealistically hopeless. Still, for one day at least, I'll allow them to be asked... and offer responses that have no answers.


  1. Feeling the ghosts creeping in, are we?

  2. thanks for serving jeff...and crrying those memories....

  3. Well, I hope these moments of "being a littled depressed and more reverent than usual" will soon be followed by further mirth and irreverence. More than contradictory moods, they seem intertwined, each as necessary as the other. Couldn't and wouldn't have the one without the other.

    Let me just say that, for me, your writings in the past have done much to honor those persons you miss on that dreaded list that just keeps getting longer, not by flagwaving and empty phrase-mongering but by making real and tangible a glimpse of their lives and personalities, and by communicating exactly what it that we honor in silence with knotted throats.

  4. The thought of crossfire, on a grand scale or in the back yard has always terrified me. Even though it becomes mixed to thank the ones who serve while abhorring the fight, I do. Thank you, Jeff. -J

  5. Whatever you memories, thank you for serving.

    Have some merlot, at least. Or do I need to say that?

  6. I have learned a lot about the people who are "the military" from these posts you do and some of the others I have read of that I never left a comment on. I wish your blog was more widely read for some of these posts alone. No bright flag outside a sunny house. But instead something that leaves an ache...
    "But memories of names and faces remain, along with questions both hypothetically useless and hyperrealistically hopeless. Still, for one day at least, I'll allow them to be asked... and offer responses that have no answers."
    I read this early this morning. I have been thinking about it since I woke up. Your last lines often get me, as you know. These leave me teary.

  7. As the stepchild of a career military soldier and officer, I can say that growing up around military and government workers has left deep impressions. One for those who loose colleagues and loved ones due to the politics of wars, the other is a line I continue to walk gingerly between my personal pacifism and the love I have for members of my family who serve as is their right. Thanks for this and your other posts Jeff. I am thinking of my parents today, both at Arlington.

  8. my pop served in korea, but never left hawaii--still we honor him and you, jeff, and all your fallen comrades...happy (be happy) memorial day--have some of that merlot and coffee you are famous for!