Remembering the Many Kinds of Sacrifice

Thelma Was Here
A WWII recruitment poster for women in the USMC.

By Ian Tingen

I am quite proud to be a grandchild of a “woman Marine” – a term that became outdated years ago, but in the 1940’s was used to describe people like my grandmother Thelma. Thelma served until she became pregnant with my father. Though I never got to meet her (cancer took her far too young), her influence on my dad was eventually visited on me: I can make a bed with hospital corners that you could bounce an entire roll of quarters off of.

But I digress. This isnt about making up your cot. It’s about Memorial Day.

Though I was not brought up in a jingoistic fashion, military personnel both in and outside of the family have been common. I have been lucky enough to meet people who served in every theater of combat in every war since World War II, and I have learned from each veteran I’ve come across.

One of the things I’ve learned is that our living soldiers deserve just as much attention as the fallen. Today is a day to honor sacrifice; to remember those who gave their lives. Even so, one can give their life without dying. Every soldier who has seen combat leaves a part of themselves behind, necessarily: the stress of life-or-death living requires mental distancing from apple pie and picket fences. A friend of mine who is struggling with crippling PTSD summed it up simply: “Even if you survive, it’s hard to live.”

Whether you agree with a soldier’s mission or not, the fact is that service comes with a cost. Politicize war all you want, but remember that there’s a human component that needs help regardless of how you vote. Rates of PTSD and suicide in the military are at an all-time high – war really is hell. These sacrifices of mental health should not go by without due respect and attention.

The dead will always be there, gone but not forgotten because of days like today. Let’s not forget those who are gone, and still with us.

Thank you all for your service.

***

I encourage you to read some vets’ stories: try these to start.

If you’re looking for a great charity to donate to today, try the Wounded Warrior Project.

If you’re a vet that needs help, or know one who does, go here.

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