Tuesday, May 30, 2006
For me, Memorial Day Weekend has always meant the start of summer. The last weekend of May is the sign that days are officially longer, the sandy surf is open for the season and water ice is readily available for dessert. The Monday off typically includes a meal of hot dogs and hamburgers grilled to perfection over piping hot charcoal. You dab the grease from your lips with American flag napkins. Memorial Day simply marks the end of spring and the start of summer. It means nothing more. At least it didn’t until this year.
I didn’t arrange any plans for this holiday weekend. I’d thought about making a last minute journey to Old Saybrook, the beachside town where I spent many summers as a child. Even twenty-five years later, Connecticut is a warm and comfortable home away from home. From the lobster roll and season specific $5 t-shirt at Lenny & Joe’s to feeding the seagulls down by Saybrook Point, I find everything about this sleepy seaside town enjoyable.
But alas, I remained local. I had dinner plans with a friend on Friday night and there was little appeal to hitting the road early on Saturday morning. So here I stayed. Following a few hours of catching up at the Chestnut Grill, I parted ways with my friend and headed home. Feeling guilty from the not quite healthy salad, a bed of lettuce littered with avocado, grilled chicken, bacon and feta, I slipped into some exercise clothes and hit the treadmill. Time on that thing doesn’t remove all guilt but it does reduce it ever so slightly.
I flipped through the channels on the TV as I worked my way up in speed and incline. Eventually, I settled on an HBO documentary, Baghdad ER. I’d heard rumblings about this film but only through the media. I dropped the remote back into the slot specified for a water bottle and began paying attention.
When it comes to politics and the war, I have my opinions. But I tend to shy away from conversation about either. The bottom line is that everything I’ve concluded has been based on where I’m standing. In case you’re wondering, I’m standing in a nice sized one bedroom condo that’s nestled in a protected community where the worst crime my local police force deals with is under aged drinking and loitering at the WaWa. I know my opinions are shaped by the sheltered life I lead and therefore understand they aren’t necessarily well grounded.
Many years have passed since the war in Iraq commenced. The ongoing deaths and injuries of Americans makes the news but not in the sensational way as before. Unless, of course, the person killed is a reporter. That makes the front page every time. Otherwise, casualties are a mere blip in the rundown of worthwhile events to report, falling well below silly things like who is winning the basketball tournament and the umpteenth arrest specific to Natalee Holloway's disappearance.
I got off the treadmill and watched the remnants of the documentary from my sofa. There was sweat pouring down my brow and I was terribly thirsty. Nonetheless, I remained focused on the tragic reality splashed across my screen. I was invited into a world I honestly never knew existed. I’ve been ignorant to the war going on because I’ve been permitted to remain ignorant. This documentary reminded me of my complacency.
When the show concluded, I turned to my computer and started researching some topics the film had left me pondering. Shortly into my efforts, I submitted my information to adopt a platoon. For all that those men and women do, I think I can muster the strength to pen one letter a week and send one care package a month. Then I donated some air miles to Fisher House. I’d never before heard of this organization but probably because I’ve never lived a life within proximity of the military. Hey, at the end of the day, I wasn’t going to use those American Airline miles anyway. Might as well let a non-profit put them to use.
The last thing I did was sit down to write this post. I’m not one to push my uncertain and wavering political views on my friends let alone the three strangers who read my musings. But supporting the troops has nothing to do with supporting the war or Bush and his administration. It is the simple gesture of letting the men and women who get paid to put their lives on the line so that the people back here in the states, the ones who comfortably spent Memorial Day biting into a juicy burger, don’t have to. I've never served in the military. Absent a draft, I never will. And I honestly can't understand the draw to enlist. Nonetheless, I thoroughly appreciate what is provided to me by those who do enlist and it's about time I relayed my appreciation.