Remember Them: Memorial Day 2013

Freeland, PA

Memorial Day 2013

Those who gave us this day are gone. They rest forever since that day the honor guard fired the rifles and the bugler blew taps over them. Those Veterans that remain wait for that day. The responsibility of remembering the fallen is not only the duty of our American Legions, VFW Posts or any Veterans organization, but of all of us. We have to give to all those Veterans who are no longer with us, and those Veterans still living, all the praise and honor they earned. This is what today, Memorial Day, represents.
The boys who became men, who became Veterans, know so much about this day. Some began their growth before they learned how to shave or cast their first vote. I speak of Veterans as boys because most had not seen their 20th or 21st birthday before they were called to fight for our country. So many of these boys would never have that 21st birthday, but they all fought as men. When they joined the military, they came from all over America. They were all sizes and shapes, all different colors and they had all different religious beliefs. But in the end, as they faced death in some far-off country they became one. Each of them is one link in a strong chain. They will hold no secrets from each other. They will share friendships that come from their hearts. After months of rigorous training of their bodies and minds, they may find themselves side by side on a ship writing letters to Mom or that special girl. Soon all those days of learning about war will be tested. Soon they will find out what war really is. It will not be funny or glorious like on TV or the movies. War will seem like jumping into a hole where you cannot see the bottom. They will depend on each other. They will find that their senses are sharper and they have a strength in their bodies and minds that they never knew they had. They will find themselves in battles hearing the sound of a bullet entering a buddy’s body or pieces of hot shrapnel tearing bodies apart.

You have to watch all this. All you can do is pray that it will not be you the next time. You will cry each time one of your friends die.

Coming home alive with my same body but with so many memories locked in my mind, I found out one thing: I could not cry. Crying is a blessing and shows you care for others. I asked myself, “Was I given so many tears when I was born and had used them all up?” It tore me up inside when my grandmother, dad, mother, brother, and finally my daughter died and I could not shed one tear. This was a feeling I hope someone never feels. Then one day a couple years ago, I was at the VA hospital for a routine doctor’s appointment. Coming out of my visit I saw a nurse bringing in a patient in a wheelchair. On his head was a Marine Corps hat. This patient was African-American. The nurse took off a blanket which was covering him and I saw that he had only one arm and one leg. He had USMC on his shirt. I greeted him with “Semper Fi”, the greeting that one Marine says to another. He gave me a smile. We started to talk and he told me he was in Korea the same time I was. We were in some of the same battles, but I was lucky, his body showed the pain and price of war. When the doctor called him into the office, I turned to leave. He called back to me and said “Thank God you made it home OK.” I knelt by him, hugged him, and all of a sudden tears began flowing down my cheeks. It took this moment to give me back the gift of crying. A gift I thought I had lost forever.

But today, we Veterans living and gone do not ask you to cry for them. Just remember them.

Joseph Barna
USMC, Korea, 1952-1953
Freeland, Pa.

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