This past weekend was Memorial Day. The BBQs are over and the pools are open... its the beginning of summer for everyone and it was a big party........Not so much for me.
What does memorial day mean to me and why am I writing this?
This day for me is a very emotional mixed up day. I celebrate in my own way and its not BBQs and parties, but its remembering my friends who have died on the battlefield. I sit by myself and go through a box of photos. I drink some beer or wine and remember the good times with my friends. I take a drink then give them a drink with a splash onto the earth. I see them in our glory days and then I see the coffins. I don't sleep very much.
In my head I am running through the battles and justifying our actions and wondering what the hell we are doing. Why did they die and what did they die for? What are our values? Are we now fighting for our civilization? A "western" civilization against the torrent of change in recent times? I go into philosophical discussion in my head. I wonder about our shrinking world in the time of a world wide web. I contemplate the religions that are based upon thousand year old values and outdated politics based upon a world of limited resources and isolation. I wonder and contemplate everything in my life and what the heck did my friends die for? Why do we have to fight?
We are the warriors; WE DEFEND America and its values; We fight for Freedom, Liberty and Justice. It all sounds so noble and like super heroes out fighting Lex Luther or Satan. The true warrior does not wish to ever use his skills, but he is ready when called upon; he is ready when we are threatened. When the politics fail and we are attacked we defend ourselves. I hope we are doing what is right, because it seems the warriors are called to action far too much in recent times...
I wrote a book called "Lady Valor: A path from war to peace" it will publish on July 4th of this year. Here is a chapter from that book that may bring some light onto my thoughts on Memorial Day.
To set up the chapter.... I was a Navy SEAL for 20 years. I was in Afghanistan for a while and this was my coming home from the battle field:
Chapter 11: Flags of Freedom
I was getting on the freedom bird home. Boarding the plane I walked from the ramp of the aircraft toward the seats. There were two vehicles loaded that got hit by IEDs or rockets during an earlier mission. We bring them back to repair and then return them to combat another time; just like me I guess.
I made it past the second vehicle, walking past a field of US flags.
The front of the plane was loaded with flag draped coffins. It was our buddies who had been killed in action the week before. They kept them on ice for the week and now we’re flying home with them. It was surreal.
I was sitting in a jump seat with my back pressed against the aircraft and my knees almost touching a coffin in the middle of the plane. I asked the doc for a couple of Ambien so I could knock myself out. I needed to not think about the last year. He gave me three pills; I took them with a slug from the canteen. I was out as I sat down, an hour or so later I woke up due to turbulence. The green light must have gone off to let everyone unbuckle and set up hammocks and sleeping bags all around the aircraft. I had one of the guy’s head on one side of me and someone’s feet on the other side. No room for me to stretch out on the bench seat.
There was only one place to lay out and sleep the remaining five hours. I was groggy. I lay down between the coffins with my brothers on each side of me. The Ambien kicked in good again, and I was out, but I had dreams.
I was on a few ambushes; I was hit, and I was in the coffin and could see the flag from the back. I was looking up in my dream, and I jerked awake to the real world and the U.S. flags around me. Breathing hard and with a spinning head; I had to get out. I wanted so bad to be out of there. Jump out of the plane. Do something.
I looked around and saw other guys sleeping and a few sitting up listening to their iPods. I wanted to yell, cry, call out for help, or punch something. I needed to get out into a green field or a forest and be free.
I laid my head back down and looked up and saw the flags on each side of me, aircraft fuselage above me. The constant drone of engines was in my ears as I fell back to sleep.
I dream of flags to this day, flags of freedom, flags when I flew home from the war.
My brothers beside me in flag draped coffins on each side as I slept on the freedom bird back home.
Freedom is not free.
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