Memorial Day is coming up on Monday. This means a lot of people will not have to work and hamburgers and hot dogs will cover grills across America as crowds swarm to lakes and beaches.
Of course, we all know that Memorial Day is primarily a day to remember men and women who have died serving our nation. It is a fine day to purchase some flowers and fixtures and visit the local cemetery to decorate the graves of our loved ones.
My mom’s parents will undoubtedly visit the grave of my great uncle, Bill Walker, who passed away about 15 years ago and is buried in the Portales Memorial Cemetery. Uncle Bill was drafted and landed in Vietnam when he was 20 years old. According to Jo, my mom’s mom, he probably did not necessarily want to go but he felt it was his duty. He fought for two years and received a Bronze Star. He survived the war, though doctors said it was likely Agent Orange that wrought the cancer which claimed him some time later. He was able to enjoy his life after the war, while nearly 60,000 Americans whose names adorn the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. did not. According to the University of Houston’s online Vietnam textbook, some 2 million Vietnamese people also lost their lives in the decades-long conflict.
Fred Patterson, my step dad’s dad, came close to having his number drawn in the draft multiple times throughout the 60s but received deferments while he went to college and worked as a teacher in Albuquerque. I know he would have ultimately answered Uncle Sam’s call, but I am glad I can only speculate as to how his conscription may have altered my family’s history.
I hope I never live to see a day where the U.S. government draws names again to send men to fight in a war. The prospect is terrifying and makes me realize just how out of touch I am from the periods in our country’s history when this system was in place.
We all owe a great deal of respect to the people who have died fighting in these wars, as the names of my generation lie dormant but registered in databases, ready for drawing should the draft re-emerge in the face of another massive war.
With that being said, if you know any veterans or any loved ones of a lost veteran, this weekend would be a good time to give them your thanks and to remember the trials they have endured.