When WWII came along, WWI was not very far off, because 1918 is not that far from 1941. When we were kids, WWI vets were still young, and we also reflected on the Civil War. In those days, it was very real, and then with the full mobilization of WWII, where we had limited goods and services with the war effort, it was very real, and the day that we now know as Memorial Day was a serious time.
Peonies were the flower because the United States began flowering at that time. People wore a rose. A red rose stood for someone who was still alive, and you wore a white rose if you lost someone. People could look at the rose you were wearing, and know. People would decorate and maintain the graves during the 1930s, and put whatever they had, including roses, or peonies or other things. We called it Decoration Day, and if you went to a graveyard on Decoration Day, there was not a grave that was not decorated.
We have departed. We have departed to the point where veterans are out of sight and out of mind. You call the doctor and your appointment has been cancelled. You get to an appointment and you have to wait. When a man has been called to give of himself he should not be treated this way. Memorial day was a serious time, and a time for reflection and pause.
It was not like it is today. If we are fighting our wars out of sight and out of mind, and killing some here and some there, in Afganistan, or Iraq, and no one knows why or where, our veterans are similarly segregated on return, and relegated to out of sight, and out of mind. Back then Memorial Day was not about that the mall had a sale that day, or you went somewhere, of you counted the number of days off you had. It was based on a seriousness and a pause — like my Uncle Henry, who pulled himself around, paralyzed.
During WWII there was the wait for the telegram. But today, we segregate the veterans and no one cares.
Five days prior to Memorial Day in 2011, Jonathan Montana, a 65-year-old veteran, was waiting for his dialysis in the ER area of the VA Hospital in Loma Linda, California. He had a surgically implanted shunt in his arm, for the procedure, the hospital had established access with a needle for the procedure, and he and his wife were waiting. After four hours, Jonathan became tired and decided to leave and go to the VA in Long Beach, CA for the procedure. He told his wife to get the car.
While she was gone, he informed nursing staff that he was leaving, and that he wanted to keep the established access site in place, so the VAMC Long Beach would not have to start over. The nursing staff called the VA police. The VA police arrived, tackled Jonathan to the floor and stomped and beat him. They stomped on Jonathan’s carotid artery, dissecting it, and causing Jonatahan to have a massive hemorrhagic stroke. His wife became concerned, waiting in the parking lot. She went inside. The ER staff told her that her husband had had a stroke. They did not mention that he had been attacked. Jonathan died in June, 2011.
On Mother’s Day of this year, just a couple of weeks before Memorial Day, Iraq and Afganistan Veteran Tommy Yancy was pulled over for not having a front license plate. Five California Highway Patrol officers beat Tommy Yancy to death in the street while stunned onlookers filmed the horrific event on a cell phone while commenting, “too much excessive force” and “not resisting.”
This is how we do our veterans today.
For example, I do not believe that any of our military service men and women belong in Afghanistan. I was reading the New Manual of the Constitution, published in 1887 (and left in a dumpster in pristine condition). The Founding Fathers were concerned about men serving — the length of time as well as their difficulties in adjusting upon return. They felt that the government should provide some means of protection upon one’s return from service, to ensure that one could continue to make a living. Now, not only are many veterans disabled and unable to make a living, much less afford proper medications, but they are shunned in subtle ways and not-so-subtle ways. Indeed, many Americans at home have no idea where these returning veterans have been or why they have been there.
We have departed.
Photo by Yoko Nekonomania, Rose, Iceberg (Schneewittchen, under Creative Commons license