Memorial Day Reflections

Memorial Day is a sad day for me, as I reflect upon all the deaths from wars over the centuries. I am grateful to my grandfathers Ralph “Spike” Martin (1902-1987) and Phil Daughtry (1909-1988) for their hard sacrifices in World War II and before and after that as the caring, troubled men that they were. They lived long after the War, both damaged in different ways by battle.  My grandfather Phil (over on the British front) was wounded in the gut from shrapnel, I believe. He was never the same, his body riddled with health issues for the rest of his life.  My other grandfather Spike, from Georgia, U.S.A. was hardier in constitution and lucky to have not been physically injured.  He also served in the Korean War.  But, his mental trauma came through in violence-filled daydreaming and the occasional out-of-the blue loss of temper. Nevertheless, they were both good providers and loving grandfathers. I honor their memory not only today but all the time, as much as I can.

6 thoughts on “Memorial Day Reflections

  1. Memorial Day is a strange holiday. I am glad you had such loving grandfathers to think about on this day. In my house, war was not talked about. We knew my father had fought in Korea, along with two of his brothers, but he never talked about it. My thoughts today went to the cookouts we had every Memorial Day with my father manning the grill and how those Memorial Days were happy times spent with my father’s parents and all of us. Bittersweet is the feeling I am left with.

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    1. I agree, Memorial Day is a strange holiday. I can well imagine your father and his friends and family not wanting at all to talk about Korea. Too traumatic and painful, best left there in the past, on the other side of the world. And that was before trauma treatment was as good as it is now. And, still, these days so many vets prefer not to discuss their combat experiences openly. I don’t blame them in the least. I’m glad you have joyful memories of cookouts with your father, his parents, and the rest of your family. That was undoubtedly very healing for your dad to be manning the grill, surrounded by his loved ones. Healing happens in relationship, in connection with others who we love and love us.

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  2. Yes, Memorial Day is an odd “holiday.” It teeters me on despair for the physical, emotional, and spiritual carnage of war and its epigenetics. I honor the suffering of those people who stood for causes they believed in, the suffering of so many who were locked in to serving without choosing it, and the suffering of all those whose names don’t make it onto the plaques or walls or monuments.

    But the sheer scope of the tortuous sadness overwhelms me despite being fully aware that we live in an imperfect world. I’m so profoundly conflicted about the armed forces. I’m a pacifist in my heart, but I also am aware that the service of soldiers affords me a life I might not otherwise have. So I avoid. I can’t even put flowers and a flag on my father’s grave (US Navy, WWII)–my mother-in-law does it instead as my dad’s grave is just a few paces away from her second husband’s (US Army, WWII).

    I cried when they played taps at my dad’s funeral and handed me the exquisitely folded flag which I passed on to my son who also has his grandfather’s flag (US Army WWI). I proudly tell the story of my Uncle Scotty (US Army WWII), a pilot shot down who survived in a lifeboat for close to three months and whose plane is in the Smithsonian. And I have a weird sense of potential pride that my son might choose to become a US Navy Chaplain.

    Yet all of it makes me sick to my stomach too. Whenever the horror of it all threatens to drown me, I repetitively chant the chorus to the old song, “How Can I Keep from Singing?” forever emblazoned in my soul by beloved Pete Seeger’s version of it.

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