I think if there were a draft and I were a healthy young person, I would be a conscientious objector. I don't believe fighting solves anything. I wish mankind would have evolved past violence against one another. I'm sad when I think about how many die every year, every day, in the name of patriotism or God or oil prices or any number of things that it doesn't make sense to fight over. But I understand the heart behind service, and I especially appreciate that it isn't all about fighting.
I include police, firemen, and teachers in my perception of public servants. And I know that many, many military men and women do peace work, care for people of all nations, save children and families and puppies from battle sites, and give of themselves, their hearts, their courage, their compassion. These are, I believe, the backbone of our country. These are our strength. Anybody can fight. That's not to undermine what soldiers do in the line of duty. They don't choose to fight; they're just following orders. The politics break my heart.
My dad died in the line of duty. A California Highway Patrol officer, he was killed in a hit-and-run incident while issuing a citation on the side of the road. He was a San Francisco police officer before that, and was studying law in his spare time. He dreamed of becoming a judge, and he would have been a great one. He was big and strong and rarely smiled for photos, hesitant, I think, for people to see how kind and happy and mischievous he could be. He loved golf and bowling and excelled at both. He loved God and the concept of loving one's neighbor and he taught Sunday school. He played guitar and piano and dabbled with other instruments -- I still have the piano with the cigarette burn on the high C where he'd rest his Camel while playing, back in the early 1960s. And he was smart. Clever. Witty. A practical joker. A snuggly warm hugger of the three small children who adored him. I remember Dad on Memorial Day.
We remember those who served and gave their lives. The place we drop the ball is in remembering those who served and gave their sanity, their health, a limb, their sight, their ability to provide for themselves and their families. We let them beg on street corners and we barely give them a glance.
My daughter's best friend lost her dad last year. He was a disabled veteran, and the family of four was living on his VA benefits, frugally, but getting by. His widow has Huntington's disease. The two kids, barely adults, now have to manage the home, care for their mom, figure out what benefits they qualify for, if any, work to make ends meet, and prepare for losing their mother sooner than later. They do get some veteran's survivor's benefits, but they are in a tough spot. It's families like this who need our remembrances and our gratitude. They don't need "Happy Memorial Day." They need a casserole or a roasted chicken or help with the rent.
Memorial Day -- a good day for taking a few silent moments to remember all those who gave their lives so we could live in more freedom and prosperity than any civilization in the history of mankind. A good day for a barbecue and a baseball game and the start of summer activities and that graduation party and a garage sale. Isn't it also a good day to find and thank a living veteran, take a meal to one, hand $5 out the car window and thank one for his/her service. The living need us to remember them, too.