Today is Memorial Day. What is Memorial Day, you ask? It is a day to remember my Grandpa. Oh, wait. Sorry. Mom says it's not just about him (could have told me that sooner) but it's really about honoring those who have died in war. My Grandpa Rhines didn't die in a war but he served in the infantry in Vietnam. I never got to meet him because he died when my Momma was just 22 and I didn't come along until she was really old. She told me a lot about him today. So in honor of Memorial Day, I will share what she told me.
My Grandpa was funny.
My Grandpa was smart.
My Grandpa could cook.
My Grandpa wished he could play the guitar.
My Grandpa was the life of the party.
My Grandpa was proud.
My Grandpa was a proud liberal.
My Grandpa liked Peter, Paul & Mary.
My Grandpa loved my Momma.
I had to ask why, if Memorial Day is about honoring those who died in a war, were we remembering Grandpa who died twenty three years after he came back? I didn't understand. Momma told me that in many ways, Grandpa Rhines didn't really come back from Vietnam. He saw a lot of terrible things that haunted him for the rest of his life. Can you imagine? Seeing things that are so bad that you never forget them? And that because of that, he had a hard time adjusting to everyday life. She said he felt guilty all of the time and that Memorial Day was a really big deal to him. She said he had undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. (I had to have Momma write that down...those are really big words for a nine month old!) Apparently, back when soldiers were coming home from Vietnam, they didn't have a name for it and they didn't do anything to help the soldiers who had it. So, Grandpa did what he could to help himself and his prescription was PBR. I don't know what that is but I hear that if you take enough of it for too long, it turns out to be really bad for you and that's why I never got to meet him.
There is so much that I don't understand about all that but the biggest is why do we go to war? Why don't we take care of people who come back? Momma says that there wasn't even a parade for the veterans of the Vietnam War when it ended. That doesn't seem right. But I know that my Momma is very proud of him. She told me that a lot of times today. And you can tell by the way she talks about him all the time. I can't tell if it's because she talks about him all the time or if maybe I knew him before I was born because I feel like I know him. That's pretty cool!
So I think I have it figured out. We honor my Grandpa Rhines on Memorial Day because the war caused my Grandpa to be sick and even though he didn't die in that country, during that war, it was that war that got him 23 years later. OK. I overheard Momma say that :) But it sounds about right to me.
Dear Grandpa Rhines: I'm sorry that you had to go to Vietnam. Thank you for fighting. I'm sorry that you weren't honored well when you came home and that your sickness was ignored. You deserved better. I will honor you every chance I get...along with my other military Grandpa's and my military Grandma. Happy Memorial Day.