Today is always bittersweet. Most people look forward to the time off work, the 3 day weekend, the barbeques. For us, it is another day to remember. To think of the men and their families that were left behind. We wonder how they are doing, how the kids are growing up. And we are thankful too...thankful and feeling guilty at the same time that we are still here. So I feel obligated to remember them all, especially today.
Last Memorial Day, Tim and I went to the Marine Memorial Park in San Clemente which overlooks the ocean. It was the end of the day, but the beach was still packed. We sat on a bench, under the saluting Marine sculpture and watched the sun set into the ocean. It was quiet up there, the view was so beautiful, and tears streamed down our face. Neither of us spoke, we just sat there and held hands. Each of us engulfed in our own memories and thoughts.
This past week, while I was dinking around on my computer I came across some old documents I had typed up years ago. One seemed perfect for today, on a day when I really don't know what to say because it can be overwhelming. When it shouldn't be about anything else but those who have served. And since I am no longer in San Clemente to visit the park, or do anything else that would honorable today, I thought I would share this. If I could do anything today I would be walking the rows in Arlington, something we have not been able to do since before the war, so of course, it has new meaning to us. So I thought I would post part of what I wrote, after all today is about remembering and reflecting...
We all sat there, staring at the line of inverted riffles and the pictures of the men that had been placed in front of each weapon. The wind rolled off the hills of Camp Pendleton to where we all stood, where the Marines were lined in formation, where the inverted rifles and their boots lay in memoriam.
The wind whipped the dog tags so each one hit the riffle it was dangling on, making sounds like wind chimes. Clink-clink, clink-clink…as if the dead were reaching out to us saying “we’re here.”
It was almost too much to take in, the blue sky, the helicopter making its distant sound, the gunfire miles off in the distance at the range. It all played out as if it wasn’t real, standing here looking at the Marines, their families, it seemed as if I were in a dream, some sort of movie.
As I stood there at the memorial I thought of the last3 years and all that had happened. It would be hard to leave this, to just get in our car and drive the same way we had come. It represented letting go of so much more than anyone else could imagine. The only people that could imagine were those that had done it before us and we were all connected by one thing, the Marine Corps.
An hour later we walked to our car and drove through the gate to go home. This was the same road I had taken home after dropping Tim off for his second deployment, the same road I had cried on, and still the same as I drove in the darkness of night early one summer morning to pick him up as he returned from Iraq the first time. It was the road of unknowns. The road had not changed, but I had.
I felt like all this had happened behind closed doors. The tearful goodbyes, the welcome home signs, the funerals, the pre-deployment briefs; it had all happened just a mile or so off the 5, yet everyone around here had no clue what was happening. As soon as we got on the ramp to head north I felt like every other person in Orange County, only I knew what happened behind those infamous gates and had experienced it all. Every emotion a human could experience was felt on that little stretch of road, and again, only those who had been there knew of it. And because of that stretch of road I had found meaning in a world that I had never known existed. In this world I had gone from a naïve girl from western Michigan to a proud Marine Corps wife that had a new found appreciation for the word freedom.