Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter

column: Being Late for Memorial Day

By now, many of you have noticed that Storm Chaser did not come out on June 1st, as I was informed it would. I still don't know why, but I've heard from another WCP author whose book also didn't come out at the same time, so this seems to be a problem with the publisher (or website) rather than me specifically. As before I'll keep you informed on the new release date; although I think I'll wait until I actually see it before making the official post. 

It was a rough day for me: In addition to the waiting that didn't pan out, I spent two hours in the dentist's chair getting a temporary cap put on, only to discover when the pain med wore off and I woke up that the fit isn't quite right, and I'm still hurting, and I may end up losing the tooth. So, yeah ... rough day. But a lot of people have much worse days than I do, and my column that came out yesterday pays tribute to what others have done -- what they sacrificed to give me the life that I sometimes bitch about:




            By the time you read this Memorial Day will be over, which in a way is part of why I’m writing it. I was busy last week, you see, and sent in an unrelated column that I wrote months ago.

            I was busy. There’s a lot going on.


            Memorial Day started as Decoration Day way back in 1866, with the idea that those lost during military service should be remembered, and their graves decorated. The American Civil War had just ended, and almost every family had suffered at least one loss, so the sacrifice was fresh on everyone’s mind.

            So it’s not like I didn’t see it coming.

            Now it’s the unofficial first weekend of summer, devoted to parties, barbeques, drinking, car races, and the celebration of three day weekends.

            I volunteered to work an extra shift this Memorial Day; one of my coworkers wanted time off, but didn’t want to make someone else have to work a holiday. That’s okay by me; it was holiday pay, and although it means missing the Memorial Day observances it also frees me from the somewhat guilty feeling I get at having a day off when living military personnel are out in the field.

            Which brings me back to not getting this column in before Memorial Day. I’d worked another extra shift, plus I’ve been working on plans to publicize my novel, and there were some issues with home maintenance and family that came up during the week. I just got … busy.

            We’re all busy, these days. Life’s got a hold on us.

            But the thing is, Memorial Day isn’t about life; it’s about death. It’s about all those men and women who died over the years, in the most horrendous ways and the more terrible circumstances, to defend the very thing we complain about: regular life.

            I’ve had a toothache. I got diagnosed with acid reflux. My chronic back pain acted up. It was a rough spring. But you know what? Nobody shot me, or planted a bomb in my car’s path.

            My roof needs replaced, and my lawn mower is acting up, and I’ve been playing a frustrating game of e-mail tag with an editor. Can you imagine how wonderful those problems must seem to some serviceman who’s spent months in a hole in northern Afghanistan? I mean, a lot of those guys don’t have roofs, or grass ... and despite modern technology, mail isn’t always waiting in their MRE pouches.

            My prostate cancer scare? Oh, please. Nobody’s shooting an RPG at my prostate, even though it sometimes feels that way during medical exams.

            Don’t get me wrong. A lot of people have legitimate problems. Sometimes you need to get your frustrations out, and it’s nice to have someone who will hear them. Needing to have a tooth capped is nothing compared to bleeding on a battlefield, but it’s still a toothache.

            I’m just asking for a little perspective.

            Now, this is the part where the writer throws in the usual platitudes. We’re talking about people who died for our freedom; who gave the last, full measure of devotion. The people without whom we wouldn’t have the freedom to do those sometimes silly, sometimes stupid, sometimes wise things we choose to do. The people who gave the complainer the right to complain, the organizer the right to organize, and the writer the right to write, and say that three times fast.

            All those clichés are overused because they’re true.

            I write, as Ben Franklin put it, “light extemporanea”, meant mostly to entertain and bring smiles. Still, sometimes I poke fun at lawyers, politicians, and others in power, and sometimes I get more serious about the issues of the day. I owe my ability to put those observations in writing to our people in uniform. Those hundreds of thousands who died gave that right to me.

            So every once in awhile, I take this stuff seriously.

            Here’s an idea: Why don’t we, just once a year, take a day out to remember the men and women who died in the service of our country? Some of them may have joined up before a war broke out; some might have even died in a peacetime accident; but they all signed on knowing the military must always be prepared for war, and that they could be asked to go into harms way at any time. Some got lucky, and went through their military career without ever firing a shot in anger.

            Some didn’t.

            Why don’t we take that day and lay a flower on a grave, or plant a little flag, or at least visit a cemetery and look on those rows of headstones, read those names? It won’t lessen our own personal problems; life goes on.

            But it goes on because of them. We shouldn’t be too busy to say thanks.


Tags: column, slightly off the mark, storm chaser

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