May 29, 2017 Memorial Day
May 29, 2017
MEMORIAL D AY
As much as I have always looked forward to the excitement of fishing the season opener on Silver Creek, I routinely shun fishing on Memorial Day itself. It is out of a deeply held personal respect for the veterans of World War II in particular, but also for other military conflicts.
I myself avoided and opposed the conflict of my youth, the Vietnam War. At the time I was rabidly anti-war, participating in rallies as did many of our youth at the time. I received the typical “student deferment” available to the college bound. I was under a deferment at the time of the first “lottery,” wherein draft numbers were drawn on the basis of the holder’s birthday. I drew 346 out of 365, so I was essentially immune from the draft and dropped my student deferment, completed college and went on to law school. Of three fellow high school sports team mates, one came back in a bag and one in a wheel chair. At the time I didn’t have the emotional maturity to grieve for them, and more or less filed away the losses in my subconscious, as I also did for the four students killed at Kent State, the Kennedy assassinations, etc.
Fast forward to the summer of 1998 when I spent 14 weeks in a Portland hospital due to a bout with a neurological paralysis called Guillan-Barre. One in a hundred Guillan-Barre patients experience and are left with sometimes debilitating back pain, and I was afflicted in that manner. One night in the hospital the pain was so persistent that I ended up receiving 8 shots of morphine before it came under control. I couldn’t sleep and was pretty much at the mercy of my thoughts. The only thing on then network television was the last 25 minutes of Platoon. When it was over I broke down and all the subconscious guilt “on the shelf” came forward. For the next two years every time I watched a show related to WWII or Vietnam I similarly broke down emotionally, even when watching the half hour situation comedy Mash or reading Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation. When I have divulged this reaction to Vietnam veterans they uniformly chide me for feeling guilty over not serving my country during that era, but one can’t help how one feels. Then, one day when I woke from a nap the second half of The Green Berets was on the TV and I watched it without incident.
Since then I have largely been fine except when watching the incredible mini-series Band of Brothers which always airs on Memorial Day, a firm commitment for me. As the years have passed I am okay until the last segment which talks about what the survivors did with the rest of their lives. One would think that would be an uplifting segment but it always does me in.
This year the watching of Band of Brothers left me wondering whether our Nation could win World War II if it was fought today. Putting our current technological superiority aside is the population united enough to personally sacrifice for the freedom of mankind? Are we too enslaved by creature comforts that we cannot endure the rigors of wartime living? Could we all mobilize to struggle for an abstract concept like “freedom?” I wonder whether the youth of the world understands how close we came to the end of freedom. It keep me awake.
Doug Andres, Stream Keeper, Double R Ranch