A Vietnam Vet Looks at Memorial Day


by Joseph Belle-Isle

When I was a kid, there was a fireworks display every Memorial Day.   The adults, many of them immigrants, were CELEBRATING the fact they made it through W.W.II and the Depression. And they proudly flew the flag because they knew it symbolized the fallen soldiers who made their survival possible.

Last night I saw an old photo of one of our soldiers’ cemeteries from W.W.II. There was a sea of perfectly-aligned monuments representing our soldiers who died in battle. Of course Christians got crosses on their stones, Jewish soldiers got Stars-of-David,  Muslim soldiers got symbols of Islam, and I understand, today the VA even has symbols for Wicans and atheists.  The point is, you don’t have to be a Christian to fight and die for America.  And I kind of think that’s what the country is always fighting for: Freedom for EVERYONE.

When I looked at that photo, I saw a lot more than orderly, clean head stones. I “saw” the screaming and the blood and the noise and the bombs and sometimes the lack of food and ammunition.  I “saw” the horror that each man under every symbol felt when he realized that ‘this is it – so maybe I’ll just charge into death for a cause – so someone else will be free’.

This year, when you fire up the grill and set off the fireworks, I hope you’ll remember to bow your head for a second and think about why your kids are playing in the glow of freedom. Maybe they’re even old enough so you can explain it to them.

Today let’s CELEBRATE and enjoy America’s freedom! And please remember the Vets who made it all possible for you – and for the people who forget why we’re celebrating.

2 Responses to “A Vietnam Vet Looks at Memorial Day”

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