I had a story picked out today for Memorial Day or Decoration Day as it has been called in the South…but then a phone call changed all that.
With all the riding back and forth between Mount Pleasant and Summerville Saturday I noticed that my brother Ben had called a couple of times so I returned the call when I got back home Sunday and had rested.
He said he finally heard back from the VA concerning his pension (that he has worked at receiving for almost ten years) and he was turned down for the increase to 100% pension. I thought he would sound a lot more disappointed but he said he was so tired of the fight. He had written, documented…family and friends had written…everyone, including his pastor, had tried to help him “up” his pension… to no avail. It simply wasn’t ‘in the cards for him.’ It was over.
He continued that he was glad he had stopped putting his life on whole waiting to hear back (two years wait this last time) from a federal bureaucratic enigma with no rhyme or reason. Starting his book on his experiences in Vietnam two years ago gave him new direction.
He said the timing on the results, however, was the worst part…Memorial Day weekend. Ben confessed that Memorial Day Weekend is the hardest two days of his year… and has been every year of his life since returning from Vietnam.
If he could simply skip this weekend each year he would gladly do so. Too many memories of friends who didn’t make it home, too many documentaries, too many war stories…too many, too much for him to handle. He avoids the news, television, newspapers, radio, etc.
If this is true for Ben…I feel that there are thousands of other veterans who probably feel the same way. For that reason Memorial Day should be a important lesson to us regarding the price of freedom. It is a high price that just continues to inflate with each ensuing war.
It is unfortunate that we often consider Memorial Day Weekend as just the kick-off to summer, graduations, celebrations, parties and forget the real meaning behind the day. So, if nothing else today, let’s thank a veteran or wear a red flower or say a prayer or leave a flower on a tombstone or talk to our children and grandchildren about the real meaning of Memorial Day…Believe me…it goes a long way. Let’s not forget our family’s heritage and sacrifice to our country.
(Daddy-left) and (Poppy-right)
I told Ben I was proud of him for letting the pension fight go and moving on with his life. Since his book has been published he has sent some copies to friends, Vietnam Vets, other authors and amazing “God Winks” have returned in abundance. He has heard from comrades he thought he would never hear from again who saw the book on Amazon…they ordered copies and have written to him thanking him for telling his story…for telling their story.
Tara Kyle (widow of Chris Kyle that the reality-based movie American Sniper was created around) wrote Ben and talked about how her healing has come about from helping others…a fund for children who lost a parent or parents in warfare. She thanked him for his service to this country.
Almost every day he hears back from someone thanking him for sharing his experiences as painful as they were…He realizes now that this is his “pension”…gratitude from people he knows and doesn’t know…. nor will never meet.
The Vietnam War did strip Ben of the innocence of youth…witnessing atrocities no one should see in their entire lifetime…but…after years of struggle…he is finally coming to terms with what happened… bringing closure to a tragic chapter in his life and this country’s history.