For some, every day is Memorial Day

It’s a day set aside to remember the selfless women and men who sacrificed their very lives to keep all that we in America hold Sacred and often times take for granted — freedom.

It’s a day that is, to quote from the Catholic Liturgy, “right and just,” and absolutely necessary.

For these heroic grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives and friends, the war is over.

But there is another band of brothers and sisters for whom every day is Memorial Day — or more aptly said, Memory Day.

The numbers may be rapidly dwindling, but there are still many men and women in their 90s across the U.S. who, each day of their lives, whether they have full faculties or not, relive the horrors of World War II over and over again. Some can’t shake the memories of squatting in a wet, cold trench in a place in Europe of which they had never knew existed. Some relive the sight of comrades on stretchers with limbs torn away, agonizingly waiting for their last breath.

Others recount daily, maybe even hourly, the stench of gun powder over the south Pacific Ocean, and later solemnly watching as a comrade, wrapped in cloth slips into the sea, never to be seen again.

Still others recount the frigid mountain conditions in Korea, once again fighting an enemy they knew little about on their own turf. They remember the seemingly endless fear of being killed, or worse, captured by a seemingly-limitless army supported by two world super powers.

There are veterans of the Vietnam “conflict,” who cannot shake the memories or flashbacks of engaging in guerilla warfare, again on enemy ground, that was swampy, infested with bugs and deadly creatures, rife with land mines triggered by catch-lines, and surrounded by snipers, and being charged by an endless stream of troops wielding bayonets and swords.

Today, there are thousands of our U.S. brothers and sisters who constantly relive the horrors of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the dread of not knowing if the person approaching you is friend or foe, benign or wearing a vest laden with explosives.

Thousands are home now, minus body parts they had when they left to serve our country. 

For some, the war has taken on a new dynamic. It’s not being fought in desert villages and towns, but in their heads. Their minds can’t grasp what they have seen, experienced — evoking a mental trauma from which they may never return.

Daily, far too many live with the pain, struggle and perpetual reminder that their lives have changed forever; that a part of them that once lived is now dead.

From 90-year-olds to teen-agers, many of our heroic brothers and sisters still fight a war, often not sharing the inner struggle with anyone.

And many of them also must live with the fact that they have taken another life or lives — of an enemy, who at another time or place, would have been just a fellow human being.

Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember those who gave their lives for this great United States. I want to offer this Memorial Day to those equally brave women and men who die within every day of their lives.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts