All of the posts that you have seen up to now have been drafted by Wendi, but as a military brat this post is really important to me.
Memorial Day began as an official holiday in 1967, but the tradition of leaving flowers and wreaths on the graves of soldiers had been going on for many hundreds of years before that. One of the first widely publicized observances of what would become Memorial Day happened here in South Carolina actually. In Charleston on May 1, 1865. Over two hundred Union soldiers had been held as prisoners of war, had died, and been buried in a mass grave in our lowcountry. To honor these men’s sacrifice, many teachers, missionaries, and former slaves cleaned and landscaped the area where they’d been buried and celebrated the sacrifice that these men had made for their freedom.
This holiday has always been something that has been very important to my family. My father was a military lifer, retiring after twenty years serving his country. He joined three years before I was born so the military life was all I ever knew until he retired. He served in three military incursions during the 1990’s: Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Vigilant Warrior. He was proud to have served his country in this way. And he always tried to make sure that my sister and I understood the kind of sacrifices that soldiers make and that we appreciated and memorialized that service.
In an effort to properly remember and honor these men during this Memorial Day weekend, Wendi and I visited the traveling exhibit called the Wall that Heals. This exhibit is a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC that was created in 1996 by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. The exhibit features both the wall replica and an educational exhibit. It was full of information on the war and the soldiers that fought. And I know Wendi would agree with me when I say that it was a lot more moving that we had anticipated. (She teared up.)
At our display of the Wall that Heals exhibit in Blythewood, we were lucky to also have a Vietnam Encampment Display that was also super interesting.
When we walked into the tent that PFC McManus and his group had erected, I had an overwhelming wave of nostalgia. All military gear has the same smell. If you have ever been around military equipment or been to an Army/Navy Store you know the smell. And that smell is my childhood. When the nostalgia passed, I finally started to look around at all the amazing gear that had been set up around the tent. PFC McManus was really knowledgeable about all of the items that they had on display. He answered all of our questions and taught us about a lot of the different items they had, from Americans as well as the Vietcong.
Overall Wendi and I were very impressed by the exhibit. It was a great memorial to the men and women who died in Vietnam. Vietnam was a difficult war for America but it was infinitely more difficult for the men who served there. No matter where you stand on the political aspects of the war, you have feel for those men and women, many of them incredibly young, who served and died there.
(Wendi here! Just a quick thought) Jimmy Carter once said “War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.” We know it is hell and often we say that we support our troops but so many veterans are not given the help they need and deserve. Returning to civilian life has its own unique challenges as well as new opportunities. But getting help is a good thing. If you are a soldier (first of all, thank you for all you’ve done) or a friend or family member of a soldier and you are looking for help or a place to just talk, the Veterans Crisis Line is a phenomenal resource.
Be sure this Memorial Day to tell our troops that we appreciate them. And say a prayer for the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice for those of us back home. Thank you, veterans. God bless America! 🇺🇸