I have heard it said that if you do not have family, close family, serving in the military, then your attitude toward government, and especially U.S. involvement in war and military conflict, will be quite different from those of us in that position.  On Memorial Day, theoretically, we come together as a nation to remember those who have been lost while performing military service.  I do not quite see that grand unity nor believe it.  Memorial Day means something different to me than it will to you, if you do not have close family in military service.  I have two sons currently serving, as well as one son and a daughter-in-law who are veterans.   For me and my house, Memorial Day is to honor others, but is really about what has not happened to us, but what we dread happening.

I do not say what we fear, because if we lived in that fear, we could not live.  Memorial Day reminds me of what my sons might risk and what the children of other military parents face and fear.  The Marine Corps social media folks sent us a wonderful speech made by Lieutenant General John Kelly, USMC, in February,of this year to Gold Star Families    You will find it moving.  As a military mother, I found it terrifying. Who are the Gold Star families? The audience General Kelly spoke to are an unenviable lot. They are the families who have lost Marines, soldiers, sailors or airmen in Iraq or Afghanistan since 9/11.  They knew those lost as husband, wife, son, daughter, father, mother . . . .  General Kelly and his wife lost their son in Afghanistan in 2010.  I am offering you a moving speech from a person who knows what he is talking about.

I thank God I do not know what he feels, what those Gold Star families feel.  As I exhale that prayer, the next inhalation is a prayer for those people who feel the pain of that loss.  It is a pathetic prayer, and by that I do not mean the modern sense of the term, which is really anti-pathetic.  I mean the old form of pathos, the chest-filling sympathy.  It is not me and that’s a relief.  It could be me; if my sons are or had been deployed differently.   Let me know how you read it.

To me this part of the speech is key,

[Y}ou should be proud of their decision . . . of their commitment . . . of their actions on the battlefield. Proud they stepped forward when so many others never even considered it. Proud that by this one very personal decision — to serve a cause higher than themselves regardless of the outcome to them personally— they gave meaning to two questions that have, over the centuries, defined the dedication of free and righteous men and women in the fight against wickedness: “If not me, Dad, who? If not now, Mom, when?”

Articles by Kate Pitrone

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