A MEMORIAL DAY DRIVE

Memorial Day is difficult to write about. It encompasses so many things that I just can’t seem to narrow it down.

I think about all of our soldiers and about how blessed we are to live in the United States of America. Save your politics for someone else, because these thoughts are about our country’s men and women. Our children. And about bravery, courage, risk, sacrifice, and honor.

So how do I even begin?

I begin by puting the top down on my convertible and going for a ride. The road always seems to take me right where I need to go.

Today was no exception.

I turn off the radio and drive in the quiet. My thoughts turn to my brother, Steve, the youngest of six children, who served eight years in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne. I was so proud of him. I wish I had told him that more often. He passed away in 2006 at the age of 39.

   

My car takes me to Michigan Memorial Park/Cemetery, (MMP), on Huron River Drive, in Flat Rock. MMP has the most beautiful, sprawling, and peaceful grounds; they do justice to our loved ones who have passed. And oddly, I like it here.

Upon entering, I become tearful and overcome with emotion. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in myself, that I forget about life’s bigger picture.

I needed a smack of perspective right in the head.

And I got it . . . right in the heart.

A tribute to those who have served our country.

 

Because they are loved and missed.

I stop by the Christmas Box Angel Statue located within MMP to visit my son. I kiss his memory brick hello. Deep in thought, I hang my head and look down . . . to see a different kind of memory brick.

When it’s time to leave, I reluctantly get back into the car, and do what I do every time I come here; get lost trying to find my way out. Obviously, I’m driving in circles, because I keep passing the same garden signs. Finally, I start to see THE SIGNS as A SIGN.

   

Maybe one thing leads to the other?

On my way home I stop at a very patriotic house in New Boston where there is a yard sale. I meet an amazing lady and a kind soul who is also a school teacher, and, I suspect, a new friend.

 

Meet the very sweet and gracious, Susan Johnson. She’s lived in this house for 34 years and comes from a long and proud heritage of honorable war veterans.

We chat, laugh about silly things, instantly bond, and talk about Memorial Day. She is delightful and really brightens my day. I purchase a few wonderful items from her and ask her to snap a picture of me in my car.

Me, enjoying one of my life’s greatest freedoms. Peace baby.

But I can’t get this image out of my mind. Because this is what the day is all about. Sacrifice. Not only by our soldiers, but by their family’s as well. The greatest that any of us can give. In service to our Country. And in service to others.

This is what our soldiers fight for. These are their GIFTS to us; all of the simple pleasures that fill our lives and our hearts with joy. We are the reason they fight.

   

For us. And for our American way of life. And all the things we have and all the things we do each day without giving it a thought; because we are just so used to doing them and just so used to having them.

And that is how we should celebrate our fallen soldiers – by loving and sharing with friends and family. And by living well.

But not so well that we forget . . .

Today is Memorial Day; a day for honoring our veterans. But one day isn’t enough. Not nearly. Not by a long shot.

Did you know this?

Is this how we honor them?

 

Please respect them now by reading below (Facts taken from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans):

“One out of every 4 homeless men (or 25%) in the United States is a Veteran. There are anywhere from 529,000 to 840,000 Veterans who are homeless at some time during the year.

  • 47% of homeless Veterans are from the Vietnam Era,
  • 15% are from the Pre-Vietnam Era and the remainder are from the Post-Vietnam Era including such conflicts as Granada, Panama, Lebanon, the Gulf War, the military’s anti-drug efforts in South America and the current Iraq War.
  • 67% served 3 years or more.
  • 89% received honorable discharges.
  • 76% experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems.

The Veterans Administration (VA) has resources to serve only 1 out of every 10 homeless Veterans. Community-based, Non-Profit Organizations, such as “Helping Our Veterans (HOV)” agencies have proven to be the most effective means for assisting homeless and at-risk veterans.”

Let us not forget our veterans. Let us honor them. The right way. The way our heroes deserve.

The very least we can do is to provide them with food and shelter.

They fought for us. Isn’t time we fight for them?

Change can start with just one voice. Will it be yours?

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Categories: Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Grief/Healing, Holidays/Birthdays, Patriotic/Political | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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22 thoughts on “A MEMORIAL DAY DRIVE

  1. you always have a perspective of compassion and awareness! and i am so happy to call you friend and now to remember your brother on this holiday of remembrance! much love from your friend in winnetka!

  2. Thank you so much, Arlynn. I hope that you are well and that you’re finding a new home! I think of you often and with great affection and I always include you in my prayers. You are a soldier of a different kind, my friend, and are a brave soul. Keep on keeping on. And thanks for reading! xoxo Julia

  3. Julia, My heart goes out to you. The importance of memorial Day is to show our respect and honoring our solidiers.. I lost a cousin because of Viet Nam.. I think that this day is always hard.. I hope that you find some solice and comfort, in knowing that many people care about and love you… I remember Steve, gone to soon…. You are my friend and sister, Love, Beverly Your writng is a gft to us all…..

  4. Thank you, Bev. Did I do okay with this? I’m forever questioning myself……Thank you for reading and for your comforting words. Love you too, sister and girlfriend…..xoxo Julia

  5. Marie Konczalski

    Julia, as always, you did more than “OK.” A very insightful, moving, thought provoking piece. I love the picture of you in your convertible. And i love the way your story unfolds and winds around different threads and points. And I think your “conclusion” that we should indeed live and celebrate our American joys is a grand tribute to our veterans. Nicely done. Marie

    • You did great with this Blog. I feel that you are meant to write, it is your calling. I and many, many other people feel as you do. I have another Viet Nam story that changed my life course forever. It is too hard for me to share at this time. When I read this story, I felt less alone. For 3 days I have felt sad.. You speak the truth, You write with a knowing of what is important. Sisters of the heart… Beverly

      • Oh, Bev, you just gave me a chill…..of emotions. Thanks for your kind words and so very much for your encouragement and support. I hope to someday hear your Viet Nam story, but I do understand how difficult it must be to share it. I’m so glad that you felt less alone when you read this piece, gosh, girl, that’s about the nicest compliment that one can hope for when writing, thank you. I also have been feeling so sad as of late, and on this day it seemed to really surface, but my drive and the things I saw pulled me from it. We are sisters of the heart. And I am blessed…and better for it. xoxo Julia

    • Thank you so much, Marie. Sometimes I try to weave too many thoughts together and end up with a muddled mess. And no matter what the piece, I always have my doubts about it. But when trying to pay tribute to someone or to an idea, it feels like it’s so much more important to get it right. My little car is my ride to freedom these days! There’s so few times when the weather is actually good for driving with the top down…but our summer mornings usually are. Thanks again for reading and taking the time to drop me a note. xoxo Julia

  6. Lynn Marchant

    Day has just broken in UK, as I struggle up ‘hung over’ from poor sleep and those first steps of the day … by ‘falling in’ with Julia and Friends a few paces, on her ‘Journey’.
    Past pictures of Julia’s beloved brother, Steve scroll before my eyes … AGAIN … just as they did several days ago, in another place too, Julia … when I could find NO WORDS fitting enough to console you, for your loss!!! (So walked away, heavy-hearted for you).

    Like you, I am going round in circles … LOST. Then … I see your words, Julia: ‘Maybe a sign IS a sign’ … and ALL IS CLEAR!!! This wonderful Blog really DOES have a Magic all of its own.!!
    !Its message is: HONESTY AND TRUTH … so often clouded out, by the daily act of Living!

    As I take a few more steps with you … I find your message of Lives Sacrificed … and For The Simple Pleasures Of Life … bowls me over. A few steps further … I DO NOT SEE THIS COMING … that so many Veterans are actually HOMELESS and left, frequently unloved, unsupported.
    HOMELESS. *OFTEN NO-ONE FIGHTING TO GIVE THEM BACK THOSE SIMPLE PLEASURES OF LIFE THEIR OWN SACRIFICE COST. How ironic is THAT?!!!

    I have had Psychic, or Paranormal Encounters before, upon waking. (Maybe because, like MANY others … I suffer from sleep apnoea, which stops one breathing whenever one falls asleep properly, as happened this morning … but no worries whatsoever. Because I’m so used to this). But it helps me somehow recognise: a psychic coincidence whenever I ‘see’ one.

    I have noticed often what psychic researchers would categorise, as paranormal activity, when online. I discussed such things with one … also a scientific researcher and a medical expert in this sleep disorder … charming gentleman and serbo-croatian.
    The message of this ‘Journey’ is all-revealing to me.

    Remember and revere your lost Loved Ones EVERY Memorial Day. But I don’t need to tell YOU that!!!

    *But whenever possible, whenever an occasion presents itself NOT given over to some other Charitable Cause already: PLEASE REMEMBER THE LIVING FRIENDS OF YOUR LOST ONES. THOSE HOMELESS VETERANS. PLEASE FIGHT TO GIVE THEM BACK THOSE SIMPLE PLEASURES OF LIFE . THOSE ONES, WHICH THEIR RIPPLES ON THE FACE OF EARTH’S WATERS … HAVE GIVEN TO ALL OF US!!!

    • Lynn, I don’t even know how to begin to thank you. “Thank you” just isn’t big enough to hold everything I feel. But thank you. You say the sweetest and most thought provoking things. And I know that you’ve really read my piece…..because of the way you respond. Your words are a gift and my reward…and I appreciate them so very much. It is truly a tragedy that our veterans face such obstacles upon returning home. I think this is unforgiveable and now wonder if I shouldn’t focus on becoming involved somehow in this cause….I have to watch myself, though, because sometimes I want to change too many things in the world and bite off more than I can chew and end up letting others down. So I know to be careful. But it most certainly is worth some thought….I can’t seem to erase the images of the photographs from my mind….or my heart. Our heroes….pushing a grocery cart on the street, where they sleep. May God bless them. And may God help us all. Thank you so much, my dear friend, my soul sister….xoxo Julia

  7. Lynn Marchant

    Apologies for leaving such an incoherent reply earlier. Writing skills sometimes go AWOL – which for myself, means poor syntax and far too much stream of consciousness. Several instructors in English and Journalism lectured me in the necessity of ALWAYS employing all the writing skills and tools we possess, to say as much as possible, in as few words as possible. The writers among you must have heard this all too often!!!
    *The skill of Julia Kovach’s writing is not only its spiritual and emotional profundity, or originality – but because every single piece shows this all-too-rare forte.

    • No apologies required EVER from you, Miss Lynn! Are you kidding me?! But I have to laugh, because I know what you mean in regards to wordage! I do the same thing! You should see these pieces when I first begin writing them. They go on and on and on…..editing is the toughest part. I posted once on Fb my thoughts on this one day, saying, “Editing is the most difficult part of writing. Because we writers think everything we put on paper is just so damned brilliant!” ha ha ha! Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with me….I love every single one of them! xoxo Julia

  8. kimberly corsi

    Julia, I really enjoyed reading this blog/story. It was touching but at the same time you covered every aspect of Memorial day with al of it’s meanings. You did a great job!!! Keep it up. : D

    • Kim, thank you so much. I worry about weaving it all together and still making sense. So thanks for telling me that. I appreciate your input so very much. Thanks for reading and taking the time to drop me a word. Take care and let’s chat soon. xoxo Julia

  9. Hi Julia,

    First, let me say that I am sorry for your loss of your brother Steve. Another life lost too soon without the opportunity to thank him for his service to our beloved country. So, instead, I will thank you, his sister, for his service. Because what people do not know is that the veteran does not serve alone, his family also serves.

    Next, I would like to say when I was younger, I was told that Memorial Day was the day we remembered our dead. It is the day we went to the cemetery and laid flowers (and my dad still does this) and had parties to celebrate their lives. It wasn’t until six years ago that I realized what it really means.

    Part of me wants to agree with you and say, yes, of course, those that died for our country, and our freedom, want us to celebrate being alive and thankful for their service and have parties and barbq’s. The sad fact of the matter is that the majority of the American public has no real idea of what exactly our American troops have suffered and lost. I do not blame them, because before my son went into the Marines, and did two combat tours to Iraq, neither did I. And, I cannot rightly explain what I have learned in the past six years. Only those living in my shoes (other family members) will ever know. What I can tell you is that it is life altering.

    Memorial Day is a sad, somber day for us. Even those of us whose loved ones made it home in one piece are somber. Those that returned home are not the same and never will be. We sent 18 year old kids off to war without having a concept about how much it would change them. Some of my very good friends lost their sons, or husbands and will never celebrate another barbq or picnic with them. Some other very good friends have had their children returned to them missing limbs, suffering from survivor guilt because they actually made it home while their brothers and sisters in arms did not. Others still are suffering with mental disorders (PTSD) and are having a hard time re-integrating into the civilian world.

    Your are so right to draw attention to the homeless veterans. Not only are there more veterans among the homeless, but there are more veterans among the unemployed. Add on top of that the VA has its hands full processing disability claims and is not doing a good job of it. Now I hear Wayne County has a department to assist its veterans with money to spend and the department is a complete failure. They are doing nothing and helping no one.

    So, while I like the idea of celebrating what our veterans and our fallen have suffered for and sacrificed for I can’t. I truly believe they are entitled to ONE DAY out of a whole darn year, where it is all about them, their sacrifice and our obligation to thank them and ask them what we can do for them. A lot of Vietnam Vets are still waiting to hear “Welcome Home” and “thank you for your service”. Instead of having barbq’s and parties, maybe next year we can all adopt a vet and invite him to our barbq, tell him thank you, or go visit at the VA or another homeless shelter and let them know how much we appreciate their service. Honestly, we should be doing this all year.

    I am not going off on you, dear Julia, because I love what you write, and it is beautifully written, but I am on a mission to tell as many people as possible that we need to do more for our veterans and I can’t let one opportunity go by.. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do that, and sorry for hijacking your blog.

    xoxo
    Kim

  10. No apologies ever needed, Kim. Honestly. My blog should be hijacked like this more often. This is why I write and how I am rewarded. Always feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with me and whoever happens to be reading my stuff. That’s what this is all about.

    I am always open to being educated or being enlightened by what others have learned. And I appreciate your very painful and extensive experiences as a military mom. I actually thought of you quite often yesterday….and while writing this piece.

    This great country of ours does a disservice to our veterans, our mentally disabled, our homeless (not only veterans, but too many teens too), etc……

    I agree with you and would be SO up to changing what we do next year at this time and on this day and in their honor.

    I used to belong to the Viet Nam Veterans of America and have had the opportunity to thank several of those veterans for their service. I have also welcomed a few of them home…..there were so many tears, on both sides. Something that humbled me and something that I will never forget.

    It’s highly emotional…….so much at stake. So many lives. So much pain. Not enough people paying attention.

    Thanks for your words, Kim, and taking the time to share with the rest of us.
    With great regard, respect, and affection,
    your friend,
    Julia

  11. Always your friend, always admiring of you. Now, go check out my FB wall! Your memory stone has made quite an impact on the Marine mommas!

  12. Thank you so much, Kim. You have filled my heart today! I left a remark on your wall about others contacting you if they want one. I hope that’s okay. If you need to direct them back to me, I would understand. Thanks again for providing me with the means to share these. You have given me such a gift, Kim. xoxo ❤ Julia

  13. Desiree Mate

    Julia thank you for shareing all your thought! I use to work for V.A. and had many veterans in my life. My thoughts never disappeared as I remember my Dad who left his family 6mo to 1 yr at a time for 20 years to help us be safe! My dad is still here and has worked hard to create a life long bond with our family in what ever way he was able. Our vets are filled with lots of emition! Proud of what they did for us. And left with the grief, death, memories of cold, wet, fear. No one will ever be able to erase any of that from our vets. Their life has forever changed for us. They deserve much more then they are provided. God bless all our veterans who risked their lives for us.

    will ever be able to erase their
    memories. We own

  14. Thank you for reading and thanks for sharing your personal story with us, Des. I appreciate your Dad and all he sacrificed for our country. It’s tough stuff……Like you said, “God bless our veterans”. xoxo Julia

  15. Dear Julia, as a Non-American it is difficult to understand why the veterans are so badly treated. On the other side we have not great interest to join American companies because their “hire + fire policies” is not very motivating if you have to support a family. Shareholder value is the keyword and this is similar in the army. They motivate you by all means to join the company or army with good slogans but on the very day when they do not need you anylonger they drop you like a “hot potato”. We are thankfull to the Americans what they did for the countries in West Europe in the 2nd world war. The Eastern countries they have given to the Russians….luckely these countries are free today by their own power. The American way of life is not the same like in the past , a country with so many jobless people, no health system, a ruined car industry, productions sourced out to the Far East, supporting the wrong friends like Ben Laden in the past, Taylor (Liberia)…President candidates who have no idea where Lybia is and this showing in the TV ….and last but not least the treating of the Veterans finally as mentioned ….then I come to the conclusion that the US has to do their homework first and has to review the status of the world in 2012. If you compare the infrastructure of Shanghai (China) with e.g New York then the later is close to 3rd world level in this comparison. Obama knows it and tried to put a huge amount of money in the infrastructure also to create jobs in the country but finally he got blocked by the oposition. The US have to wake up and should understand the cultures of other countries e.g. that Afghanistan has traditions several thousend years old and like to rule their country differently…liked or not liked by us should not be our problem…why to convince them that McDonald or Starbucks are the new values? The Russians where kicked out now the Americans try it for a huge price and it is just a matter of time that they have to leave “elegantly” not to loose face. With the money spent there you could support the veterans from the other wars well and could invest the money in America to upgrade Infrastructure, health system and education. I do not why,but your write-up’s, my dear Julia, provokes always my “hidden emotional side”. Since America likes to play the the role of the world’s police man Nr. 1…..then I had the feeling that I could speak up since I parked my car correctly. If I could vote…then my vote would go to Obama, a man with common sense and has a feel for other cultures, is close to the man on the street, he knows the weak and strong points of America….but he needs the power to implement his ideas and not constantly be blocked by the oposition. The “US inhouse fight” is good for China and Russia to move up and this we do not like in Europe. God bless America.

  16. My dearest Alfred, thank you so much for your insight from across the pond. It is a new perspective and very interesting to hear. I agree with much of what you have to say. And I thank you for reading my work and for taking the time from your busy day to leave your wonderful note! Thank you! Thank you! Take care and please….be well, my friend. xoxo Julia

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