Memorial Day is just past, the unofficial beginning of summer. I know this because my email in-box has been swamped with sales promotions since last Thursday, the scent of barbecues wafted through our neighborhood for the past three days, and numerous friends posted testimonials to veterans on Facebook.
Beyond that, however, one could easily have spent the entire past weekend with no sense of the holiday that marks sacrifices made by our nation’s soldiers.
On Sunday and Monday, Al and I walked to friends‘ homes to share meals. We strolled along leafy green streets, watched kids shooting hoops in driveways, greeted neighbors working in their gardens. I thought how lucky we are to live in a place that’s so peaceful and safe—untouched by the ravages of war on home soil.
We have our nation’s strong defenses to thank for that, and I’m grateful to all those who serve to protect us from harm. There are many, many problems to solve in this country, and our security in a dangerous world is not a given.
It’s easy to forget this as we get immersed in life’s daily upsets and annoyances. On Friday afternoon, I went to CVS to pick up a prescription that I’d called in the week before. It had been misplaced. After twenty minutes of fruitless searching, the pharmacist refilled the order. But she told me that she could only give me 30 days’ worth of pills, rather than the 90 days I was accustomed to, due to an unannounced change in our insurance. This had significant financial implications—the copay is $100 for one month’s supply, but had been $200 for three months. So, now, I am stuck with a whopping 50 percent increase for medication I need. This made me quite frustrated, to say the least.
By Monday evening, however, I had regained perspective. Yes, this is unfair and extremely expensive. But I consider myself very fortunate to be able to get the medications and health care I need to stay strong—despite the many imperfections in our health care system. Elsewhere in the world, where those systems break down due to war or civil insurrection, managing a chronic disease can become impossible.
When I was growing up in the early ’60s, we marked Memorial Day with a parade in our town. I was a Girl Scout, and we marched with our troop in green uniforms and badge sashes and white gloves, along with our elementary school principal and school district leadership and the local post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. There were bands and flags and red-white-and-blue bunting on buildings. It was both solemn and exciting to participate. I had a sense of being a part of something greater than myself.
In recalling this, I am not trying to glorify or sentimentalize war or to promote ersatz patriotism, which only serves to muddy serious and necessary debate about our country’s future. I simply think something important has been lost when Memorial Day is no longer a communal occasion for honoring veterans—when our attention span has shrunken to “liking” a salute to veterans on Facebook, and the weekend’s main events are barbecues and car sales.
In synagogue this weekend, we said a special memorial prayer for all of the soldiers who have served our country. Our rabbi called up any veterans for recognition at the end of services. Three men stood up—all in their eighties.
I’m glad they’re still with us. And I’m grateful to so many others who have been injured or who laid down their lives to protect the rest of us, so we can enjoy a good meal with friends on a warm May evening without a second thought.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.
Photo Credit: Christopher Koppes
Pat Bizzell says
Very thoughtful post, Ev, and I agree that Memorial Day should focus on thanking our veterans. I was also moved by your account of three elderly veterans standing up in shul. This prompts two reflections. One: that military service tends to be distributed in the U.S. now at least, by social class. If you are middle class or higher, you may very well not know any younger person who chose to serve in the military. Two: that younger people (by which I mean, younger than WWII vets) may not want to acknowledge publicly that they have served, so as to avoid awkward questions (“Did you kill anybody?”) or even hostility.Something to think about if one favors civilian control or oversight of the nation’s military objectives.
Evelyn Herwitz says
Thanks, Pat. Your comment is well taken.