Memorial Day: A Marine’s Perspective — By Dean Marini
As a Christian I get many questions about my beliefs and practices. How do I know God exists? Why do I abstain from doing this or that? What does the Bible have to say on various topics? What must I do to be saved? (Love answering that one!) How can I pray better or more effectively? What happens when we die?
As a veteran, the Memorial Day holiday inevitably brings about a familiar question; “Is it ok to wish someone who has served a Happy Memorial Day?” While I always applaud someone for recognizing a military member for their service and sacrifice, in no way is Memorial Day a happy occasion for us.
While others anticipate a three day weekend away from work, our minds recall three day battles filled with bitter fighting in some far off place, away from the friends and families we love. Battles which claimed the lives of people who became family to us and personified the words of Proverbs 18:24, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
When we watch our neighbors loading up their boats for a day on the water, we can’t help remember climbing into Mike boats, landing craft, Higgins boats or amtracs hoping we would survive the trip to the beach and the landing. Some of us remember riverine operations in the Mekong Delta, hitting the beach at Normandy, Iwo Jima, Inchon or being aboard a shallow draft patrol boat during Operation Iraqi Freedom. We recall the smells, fighting off seasickness, fear and the brothers and sisters that didn’t come home.
As we see someone asking for help carrying a cooler that’s overloaded and heavy; our minds flash back to the weight of the stretchers we used to carry the wounded and dying. The heaviness of the coffin at the funeral of a fallen comrade and the heaviness in our hearts that even decades cannot take away. For someone that never served, the weekend is about picnics, 72-hour sales and the unofficial start to summer. For veterans, Memorial Day brings solemn memories of the ones that gave the last full measure and won’t get to enjoy another warm summer day.
We struggle with survivor’s guilt because war so often cruelly takes the lives of those who were the best. Many of us have tried our best to live a life that honors the sacrifice of someone that gave up their life saving ours. That debt can only be understood by others that carry it. For far too many veterans, the demons still come, especially at night, and continue to haunt our minds.
As you stand at the grill trying to choose which burger, steak or hot dog to eat, we’re probably thinking of a lost buddy we once shared our rations with. When you’re reaching into that ice chest to grab another beverage; that veteran with you may be recalling hanging another unit of plasma trying to save a wounded soldier. The sight of someone putting on their water ski vest reminds us our bunkmates lost at sea.
So this Memorial Day, please enjoy times with your family and friends. After all we’ve been through with Covid-19 this year, find a way to celebrate our freedoms EVEN MORE! That’s one of the things our brothers and sisters fought and died for. But if you have a friend, family member, co-worker, someone at your church or a veteran that you happen to meet, don’t wish them a Happy Memorial Day. Just find a way to say that you’re “thinking of them and remembering the ones that we’ve lost.” Semper Fidelis, brothers and sisters, you are ALWAYS in my heart!
Written by Dean Marini