Without regard for where a war is fought, or when, Memorial Day honors those who gave it all. In November, Veterans Day celebrates everyone who served in the military. You may not know there are substantial losses even in peacetime. Driving a tank is not like driving a car, especially when cannon fire is part of the activity. The same goes for flying jets, helicopters, and being on shipboard. A considerable number of soldiers, airmen and sailors are lost during training, and the routines of everyday service; then there is warfare itself.
There are those we lovingly call The Brats; children of those serving in the military. I was a Marine Corps Brat, so I know. In 1955, we lived in Rockport, Texas. My father was being deployed to Korea. His last words to me as he walked out the door were, “You are the man of the family now. Take care of your mother and brother.” That was quite a burden to drop on an eight-year-old. He meant what he said, and I knew he meant it. Dad had almost been killed twice on his way to duty in World War II and four times while in theatre. On maneuvers in Puerto Rico, he had broken nearly every bone on the right side of his body falling from a ship into a shore landing boat. Another time, he nearly broke as many bones on his left side when a jeep flipped during a troop exercise with his battalion.
Collateral damage to us Brat children took the form of being in a family with no father, often up to a year, back in those days. Now, both parents may be in the military, and they may both be deployed at the same time. Those Brats might find themselves in the household of an aunt, uncle, or grandparents. Perhaps they have to change schools and towns, leaving behind their friends, their church, and everything they have known for a couple of years. The major stressor is worrying whether Mom and Dad are coming home at all. One parent or two, it does not matter because the stress is there.
I have Brat friends whose fathers were killed in the service. The fathers’ tragic accidents were not usually accompanied with a full explanation. The need for secrecy about our defense capabilities took precedence. Others have suffered through parents that returned with injuries which will last for the rest of their lives, or worse still, PTSD. Self-medication is not uncommon for those who served as they try to forget about what they saw or what they physically suffered. Again, this impacts the Brats.
So, we remember on this Memorial Day those who gave their lives to protect our freedoms; in November, we honor all those who served. As well, turn your attention and blessing to those who stood on the wall here at home waiting for the return of a precious parent or spouse. They too have served. They have collateral loss. That damage is not just a moment in history; it lasts a lifetime.