Now That I'm Someone Else

LIfe and loves of the bubble bath queen

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Some gave all

I've been sad about something for a little while so I decided to blog about it to get it out of my head. If you are looking for something funny, you are in the wrong place today.

My father was killed in Vietnam when I was three. Not earth shattering news since that was so long ago, but I always had a sense of pride because my Daddy died for all of us. Living on the east coast it was easy to see and feel patriotism. All the battlefields and monuments are there, school field trips were to Gettysburg, Philadelphia and Washington DC. I knew our history and felt personally related through the sacrifice my father made.

My whole life I have been angry about what was taken from my father, but lately I've come to learn, first hand, that the ones who made it back weren't any luckier, they just had to wait longer for their ultimate sacrifice, and it would be much slower and more painful.

Recently we went to New Mexico for my nephew's graduation. My ex husbands family lives there and as he and I have a good relationship now, I went to visit them.

Steve's brother is confined to a wheelchair, this has been a very recent development. Wayne is the oldest of the brothers and always very active, a leader, he makes things happen. Together he and his wife put together and hosted the yearly family reunion, they even built stages and serving areas. The whole family is very musical so the reunion centered around music with the brothers harmonizing together for most of it. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. Wayne never sat still, he always had another project planned to make next years reunion even better.

Wayne and Arlene found each other late in life, after failed marriages for both of them, and they have the kind of love the rest of us wish we could find. Now she is losing him.

Wayne has ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease, as a direct result of exposure to agent orange in Vietnam. ALS affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord which leads to loss of muscle as it wastes away and voluntary movements are affected eventually leading to paralysis. There is no cure and the disease progresses differently from patient to patient.

This man, who to me always seemed a little larger than life, sits in a wheelchair and speaks barely above a whisper. ASL doesn't affect the brain, so the man who traveled the world, built things, took care of his family, ran companies, is still there, looking out through the same eyes, but with a body that won't respond to his commands any more. Eventually he may not even be able to speak.

When we were in New Mexico, Steve and David were at Wayne's when I was there and they did what they always do- Steve played the guitar and he and David sang. Wayne watched from his wheelchair, no longer able to sing with his brothers, all he can do is watch.

I understand that we need to protect our freedom, for us, for our children and for all the generations to come, but is this the price? Here, in our own country, there are so many things wrong, we are killing each other for the stupidest reasons, we are killing ourselves with drug and alcohol abuse, the elderly are not taken care of, children are not protected, yet we continue to fight everyone else's battles.

In the past, every time we sent our boys to fight in another country, all I could think was- here we go, another generation of fatherless children. The reality is much harsher. Those who don't die on foreign soil come home to die a much slower death. We don't honor our veterans, we give lip service to it, but if you've ever been to a veteran's hospital or a homeless shelter, you know it's not true.

I'm not sure what my point is with this post, I just needed to get this out of my head. Thank you Daddy, and all the men who have died for us. Thank you Wayne and all the men who continue to die, because we just don't know any better.

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