Memorial Day

Here we are in the remote Southwest. Me, the city dwelling water baby in the desert. The hot dry climate, high altitude, constant air conditioning, chlorinated pools–my skin, my lungs, my boredom! There is little for a pregnant spouse to do in this town: the strenuous hiking, horseback riding, and drinking that entertain the other residents are frowned upon for preggos. An isolated small town of strip malls of big box stores and chain restaurants. Short term jobs, volunteer opportunities, and spouse connections are few unless you have school aged kids. In a word, it’s limited. It has been a rough adjustment–I would never chose to move here. I’ll get over it, I’ll find something redeeming about this place as I have everywhere else we’ve lived, but right now, in all honesty, it’s a challenge.

Memorial Day is one of those days that for me is always a reality check. My husband is here with me. He’s home safe. Five of his brothers are not. He’s at a tradoc post and can’t possibly be deployed when our baby is born. During this deployment we supported a wife whose baby was born after her husband died and many more who birthed their babies without the support of the partners. Even the little things, like, I would love to remember what a second or third beer tastes like, but then, of the friends and classmates we have lost, almost all of them spent their last Memorial Day drinking (or forgoing) their ration of non-alcoholic beer on deployment. Who am I to complain? Last night, sighing at the lack of friends and activities for the holiday weekend, no parade, no big post celebration, no festival or live music, DH got far away and when I asked what he was thinking he quietly said, “I’m wondering what Justin would be doing this weekend. He would be having a beer right now.” We took a moment to feel what that thought brought up, which was intense. It ended without getting morose because I couldn’t help but think that in all likelihood he would have been on staff duty–their unit had a very special knack for staff duty assignments, and it made him laugh. But it’s gallows humor. A few long weekends tied down by staff duty are nothing compared to his parents knowing they will celebrate every holiday for the rest of their lives without him. He is gone. He grew up not far from here, and he would be at home in this landscape I find so foreign.

If we take days like Memorial Day to heart, for the purpose they were intended, they make our lives richer for remembering what a privilege it is simply to be alive, to have our families intact, to be able to focus on barbecue menus and beer and breaking out our summer white wardrobe. We are privileged because others in service to our country deny themselves those privileges, and many more. Some for a few months or years, some for the rest of their too short lives. We should be not only grateful for their sacrifice, but for their example, and their death’s reminder to live with gratitude. It is not a weekend to mope, but to honor, respect, and live our lives more fully, more thoughtfully, more joyously because our privileges are precious in the truest sense of the word: of great value, procured at great cost.