It’s been a tough month for me and my family. Birthday’s, Anniversaries, the death of a beloved family member. So many different emotions, from high to low. Difficult times. It’s easier to deal with straight emotional lows, than to be pulled from one to the other on almost a daily basis. It tests ones strength and character.
I have been wanting to write another of my essays on whatever I could focus on out of all this, but it has just been impossible. I’ve wanted to honor my Aunt Mary, and my wife, but found myself jumping back and forth and blurring the lines. Now, we have Veteran’s Day, the Marine Corps Birthday (Which is very important to me) and Thanksgiving, all upon us in a rush. I won’t even mention Election Day, because I am sick to death of politics and politicians, and I just need a rest from stupid, self centered people for a while. I may get back into it again, at a later date; but for now, I barely watch anything political and my TV and radio are silent for most of the day.
Still, I struggle with what to write. My head is filled with things that I would like to say, and yet it has been almost impossible to get it out. Until now.
It dawned on me that the Greatest and Bravest Generation is all but gone from the world stage. These brave souls who stepped up during the worst of times, from the Great Depression through Korea and the great recovery and rebuilding, are all but gone. We’ve saluted the brave men who brought the world back from the brink of utter disaster many times. From the start of the War in Europe, through the attack on Pearl Harbor to ‘D’ Day in Europe and the tortuous war in the Pacific, they gave their all.
We could never repay them for all that they did. How do you repay blood, sweat, and tears? How do you make whole those who lost part of themselves, physically and mentally, in these horrible wars, and the events leading up to them? You cannot. Material things help, but they never can ease the pain and the torment. So, we set aside this Veteran’s Day, and Memorial Day to remember them, as they fade into history. Our finest people who live through our darkest hours and brought us through.
Yet, there is one group in there that we tend to push to the side; not intentionally, but because the spotlight has always been on the brave men. We pay them passing praise, but it seems to me that they deserve more that that. I’m talking about the wives and lovers of those brave men. Women like my mother and my Aunt Mary, who stayed home and kept a vigil as their loved ones went off to war to keep us free. Some stayed home, as my Aunt did, with infant children, hoping against hope that their loved ones would return from the war safe. Some worked in the factories and in the shops and stores in order to heep the country moving and supplied with the things necessary for the war effort, and for daily life. When the war ended, they comforted their husbands and lovers and helped them through the difficult periods of readjustment to living peaceful and productive lives. Some stayed home and raised families while their husbands went off to work. Some, as my Aunt Mary did, balanced work along with raising a family. They helped their husbands build small businesses, and became active and productive members of the communities in which they lived, helping the communities thrive and grow. They saw their children grow and leave home to start their own families and they felt the silence grow around them as they became less and less a part of the community that mattered. Some, like my Aunt, had people around them who did not forget all that they had done for the world. Others, sadly, were warehoused and forgotten, for the most part, victims of the every increasing pressures of modern life.
We need to stop, for a few precious moments here, and remember all of their contributions, for they are veterans, too. Just as our fathers and grandfathers served on the battlefield against enemies who would enslave us all, the fought on the home front, long after the guns were silent, to keep the countries running and strong. To keep the family intact. Do not just push them to the back of your memories; instead, when you think of the veteran, think of them as well. We could not have survived were it not for them and their loving efforts.
I dedicate this essay to the memory of my Aunt Mary, who died just a few short weeks ago at the age of 97. You are loved and remembered.
John Zaffino 11/1/ 2013 Carmel, NY