Be Happy this Memorial Day
By Genevieve Chase
A lot of civilians don’t understand why some of us are so bitter about “Happy” Memorial Day weekend. They don’t get why we feel the need to post preachy, judgy, almost shitty memes implying they should feel guilty about enjoying their extra day off. All the somewhat aggressive and “in your face” posts create a greater divide between us and them, one that doesn’t need any expansion. Is this how we want to be represented? Is it how our fallen buddies would?
I’m guilty of it, too. Yesterday, a Facebook acquaintance posted a photo of her daughter at first communion with a caption implying it was the single most important event occurring this weekend. Now, I get it. In their lives and especially to that little girl, it is a significant life event but righteous indignation boiled up. No. That IS NOT the most meaningful thing going on this weekend. Your daughter gets to HAVE a communion ceremony because she lives in a country where countless brave men and women warriors upheld and defended her right and liberty to practice her religion openly. The Veterans’ Inner Monologue strikes again!
Then I put myself in time out and stepped away from The FB.
“So for those out there, you need to take the time to honor their memory. We owe them that. But you need to be okay with not just living, but enjoying your own life too. That’s what Bill fought for. Us.”
When I first read Nick’s post, my brain (not always my friend) automatically devolved into self-defeating thoughts about how I’m not doing enough with my life. I don’t deserve to be alive. Why the fuck am I still here? There are kids out there without mothers and fathers!! The wish to trade places with those we lost will probably never go away. Knowing this derives from survivor’s guilt doesn’t really help, but knowing truly IS half the battle. After spending years working through my issues, I know that when my brain goes into self-destruction mode I have a few choices. I can keep wading into the shit bog filled with acid-like thoughts about how my extra time is undeserved, I can try to drown my thoughts out with work, alcohol, or my 30 Game of War accounts, or I can do what my buddy suggested and adopt a pet deer tick, name it Haji, then kill it with no mercy. Since the countless hours I spent doing several of the aforementioned nearly emotionally and financially bankrupted/killed me, I opt for confronting my demons the hard way…
I most likely don’t know your buddies but I do know mine. Whether they died downrange or were hit by the 8,000-mile bullet, if I’m real with myself, I know they are proud of me. Not because I’ve slicked my chest up and danced on national television, won a Veterans in Entertainment award, joined my Rhino Den buddy, Pablo, in his endeavor to build an Abu Graib Scandal Lego set, or done anything like raise a bazillion pennies and told Hollywood to go fuck itself to make the greatest military movie of all time, but because I stepped away from the edge of the abyss and chose to continue this mission – the one we all started the day we popped out of our birth moms and got our first smack on the ass.
It wasn’t fucking easy cooking eggs with tears in my eyes this morning, but as my iPod randomized to Journey’s, Don’t Stop Believing, the nostalgia hit reminding me of my crazy buddy and his absolutely horrible singing voice. I suddenly felt the urge to pick my little dog up and dance around the kitchen. So I fucking did.
Crying because I miss him, laughing because I know he’d get a crack out of the sight of me, and not giving a damn that my potatoes were burning (after all, it wasn’t bacon), it occurred that I don’t have to save the world to be worthy of his sacrifice. That’s not what he’d want me to do. I can HEAR him chiding me with a smile in his voice, “You stress too much, Kid… Always trying to save everyone but yourself… It’s the little things.”
I was gonna spend Memorial Day weekend drinking alone, with my dog and my memories to keep me company but fuck if I can’t admit that’s not how I’d want those I love to honor me if the Big Bang had ended up differently. So after some collaboration with my RD battle buddies, we’ve come up with a list of how we’d want to be honored…
- Dance. Lots. Especially when *that* song comes on. Pick up your little girl, grab your wife/husband, or channel your inner Tom Cruise, strip down to your ranger panties and Dance. Your. Ass. Off.
- Take your kid out and do something they love to do. Get to know them better. Tell your kids about your buddies who gave all. Let their memory live on in our children. If you don’t have kids, borrow one. We all know a parent that could use a day off.
- Take your dog and go for a hike, run, or play fetch. If you don’t have a dog, you can borrow one of these, too. Dog owners are more than happy to have help exercising their furry family members. There’s little as awesome as a happy, goofy dog… except bacon. Take bacon with you.
- Do the dishes, clean the house for your spouse or mom. If they’re doing them, grab him/her and give them a hug. Tell them how much you love them and how much they mean to you. This isn’t just awesome, it’s scientifically proven that hugs relieve stress.
- Don’t just visit those who’ve moved on. Visit with those still here. Ask them how they’re doing and mean it. “Do something with a veteran friend. Buy him or her lunch, watch a game, go mountain biking, have a beer.” (Pablo’s NDP) Trust us, even if you don’t need it, they might.
- Do something physical. Outside. The “cathedral of the wild” is good for the soul. Walk, run, hike. There are brothers and sisters who’ve spent months and even years stuck in hospital beds. “Enjoy the weather. Even if it’s raining, get outside or at the very least open the window.” – (Elana)
- Can’t think of something you want to do for yourself? Then do something for someone else. Mow your neighbor’s yard, buy the civilian standing behind you in line a cup of coffee, or wait at a street corner and help an old lady across it. “It’s very hard to find meaning in one’s life. It’s much easier to find “meaning in one’s actions.” So look for someone who could use your help, and help them in any way you can. If your actions begin to have meaning… your life will begin to as well.” ~Randy Pausch
- If for some reason, you can’t manage any of 1-7, try this: “Stop making civilians feel like a piece of crap because they don’t have dead friends like you do. I mean, that’s kind of the point: We sacrificed so they wouldn’t have to. Don’t hold that against them.” (Karla)
So this weekend, rather than feeling bitter about the confusion between Memorial and Veterans’ days, letting my emotions get the better of me, and resenting the happiness of others, I’m doing what I’d want my friends, family, brothers and sisters doing had I not survived the Big Bang or had followed through on my plan to tap out..
Let’s make Memorial Day weekend about camaraderie and honoring those who’ve passed on by embracing the little things and those who are still with us.