Memorial Day – We need to remember more than those who have fallen during service.

In the summer of 2002, four murders occurred at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  Two of the murders ended in suicide for the solider.  Each incident was a soldier and his wife.

All the major news outlets ran an article and grouped these four events.  The articles were named, “A War at Home”, “Death on the Home Front”, or something similar.  Over the next ten years, a disturbing amount of articles were written about similar incidents happening across the nation.  It would seem this type of event was not rare.

I chose to talk about the Fort Bragg incident because it hits close to home.  One of the soldiers in question was a dear friend of mine.  We didn’t meet in the military and become friends, we grew up together in high school.

I still remember the phone call from my parents.  They were very nervous about giving me the news.  After hanging up, I sat in my living room recliner for a couple of hours.  I was stunned. I had talked to him six months ago. What disturbed me more, I had missed two calls from him a couple of months before the incident.  We had been playing phone tag and I felt I was too busy, at the time, to track him down.  I couldn’t help but think I could have helped him.  I still think about it, every Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

I joined the Army in 1994.  A different buddy of mine had this bright idea to get us out of our small town.  On top of that, my dad had made me pay for the last two semesters of college, due to bad grades.  The Army would also pay for college.  It sounded like a great idea, so we signed up.

Getting on the bus to ship out to basic training was scary.  Lining up like cattle, to get your head shaved and pumped full of vaccinations, was an experience I never want to repeat.  None of that compared to a long, lonely year in Korea.  When I checked into the base, in Korea, they handed me a rations card.  The small town kid was afraid they limited our food.  Turns out, it was for alcohol.  If memory serves me well, each soldier was allowed two cases of beer and a fifth of whisky per monthly cycle.  I was shocked.  Who could possibly drink that much in thirty days?  Turns out, just about everyone can.

I was lucky.  I never had to deploy into an active combat zone.  I blew my knee out, and after four knee surgeries, was medically discharged.  I can tell you, I remember the loneliness.  I remember the deep whole in my chest, when I thought about family and friends.  I wasn’t married or had any kids.  I can’t fathom the level of loneliness a spouse or parent felt while being away so long.  Neither can I fathom the stress, or mental and physical challenges of being in combat.

Those who have fallen in the line of duty, have given the ultimate sacrifice.  We remember them, we salute them, and we appreciate their sacrifice.  What most people fail to realize, those fallen while in service are only part of the story.  What about those who came home and lost their personal battle?  What about those who made it out alive, but worse for wear?  What about the families of the fallen and the families of those who made it out?

Remember them all. 

If you know someone in any of these situations, reach out to them.  Many of them need help they will never ask for.

NOTE: This article was NOT designed to incite a debate on the need for war or to push any political agenda.  This article is purely to remember all who have been involved and raise awareness for our veterans and their families.