I haven’t really posted this week, because my thoughts have been lost in a maze brought on by the events this week- Memorial Day, memories, and the sacrifices of those who serve in the world’s military’s.
Memorial Day is always a funny holiday for me. By the estimates of flag waving, cemetery visiting, flower laying patriotism, I am a horrible American. I say this because I do not flag wave. I do not own a tee shirt that bears the American flag. I don’t got to the parades, or watch the TV specials, and I never visit the National or Service Cemetery on holiday weekends. I avoid bunting at all costs (that’s the swaggy stuff with red, white and blue stripes they hang off the tops of buildings), and I’m not of Facebook calling for our troops to come home, or for more funding for the war, or participating in the holiday support off of who can love soldiers more.
This is all true because I have known and loved service people all of my life. I was born to two of them, the granddaughter of more. I am a service brat, filled with connections across the branches, I have friends in regular active combat in places where we’re not even at war. And so I do not need a handful of holidays to remember them. What I need on Memorial Day, is a day off, and so that is what I take.
10 years ago today a friend of mine, Army Pfc. Joseph Jeffries was killed in action in Afghanistan. We call him Joey. And I remember him. Not when I see flags at a cemetery, or when someone calls his name on the capitol steps, but when I see pictures of the son he never met, or ride in a truck on a summer day with the windows rolled down and the music turned up. His life in the service was not tragic, his life in general was not sad- just as most military lives aren’t. Joey was a young man, happy to serve his country, happy to love his wife, happy to know a a child was on the way. Because that was his life, just like everyone else’s. Sure there’s a higher risk of death when combat is a part of your job description, but that single part of life does not dominate your day to day existence.
And so, as another Memorial Day passed, with it’s flag waving and parade marching, I reject the notion of a somber occasion, filled with tears and the salutes by those who never served. I reject the notion that we should remember those who have fallen by sitting at graves and weeping at parades. I remember Joey as a friend. An older brother who picked on me, and laughed at my singing, and would roll his eyes when he was forced to be our driver. I remember him trying (and succeeding) to scare the hajeebeza out of me while I was sleeping in a tent alone. I remember him covered in paint, chasing me to hug me in a nice church dress. He would sneak me veggies off his plate, pick me up rather than say “excuse me” when I was in his way, and steal food from the Tupperware parties our Moms used to host.
And I honor him by living my life the way we would have lived if he was still alive. Joey didn’t want our lives to be sad, or focused on war. He wanted to help protect his country, his family, and the way of life his friends loved. And so I remember, but I do not dwell.