Today in the United States of America we celebrate Memorial Day. Many people will be at the beach, partying, drinking, and just having a grand time. Others may celebrate while shopping or attending cookouts. My husband and I will have a quiet day of rest, while remembering those who have lost loved ones in war zones.
Phil and I are fortunate. While he was in Vietnam, I did not celebrate Memorial Day partying. I spent that day organizing and packing a care package to ship to him, complete with homemade cookies and other goodies he could share with his platoon.
Today, I am thankful he returned home to me, although in many ways, the soldier is still over in the fields of Vietnam. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] changed Phil. I anticipated he would be the same soldier I watched him boarding the airplane headed to Vietnam. Tears filled my eyes and I prayed God would keep him safe. I’m thankful the USA learned lots after Vietnam. To my knowledge, soldiers are not shipped into a warzone alone now. They depart in platoons. Families, especially the wives, are offered orientations and meetings to prepare them for the soldier’s return home. Never did I have any of those meetings offered to me while Phil was in Vietnam. The only thing I attended was a meeting of the Waiting Wives Club. While sitting in a chair, I listened to a woman sharing dates and times we needed to know, as waiting wives. The only ideas I heard were where the happy hours were, and where we, as waiting wives, could party while our loved ones were fighting the war. Letters sent to Phil daily took ten days to arrive, and ten days for a letter to come to me. We did not have computers to zoom, or facetime on our phones. Cell phones, including I-phones did not exist. Twice Phil phoned me from Vietnam and twice I wasn’t home. Silly me, I wrote him a letter apologizing for not being home to answer his call, then I encouraged him to go to a local phone booth and phone me again. Since I didn’t listen to the news about the war, I imagined he lived in barracks. The phone he used was a Mars station. Duh. I didn’t know!
I was at work both times that he called. During the entire one year and five days that he was away, I wrote him daily. Originally, he was scheduled to return home to the USA on Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving Day dragged by. No phone call. No message. Nothing to indicate that he was on his way home. Still I counted the days. On the third day awaiting his return without any communication, I contacted the American Red Cross. When they returned my phone call, I was told (and I quote) “When he is missing for thirty days, contact us again and we will see what we can do to assist you.”
“I have to wait thirty days? I will be in an insane asylum if I must wait thirty days! Thank you so much, American Red Cross. I donate to you yearly, but after today, I will never donate to your organizations ever again!”
And I haven’t! Only a military wife or husband can imagine how difficult it is just to wait for your loved one to return home. I could not sleep. Every time the home telephone rang, I jumped into action, hoping and praying I would hear his voice. On the fifth day in the early evening, the phone rang. Phil was in the US, in Washington State. His next flight would be to Dallas, Texas and then he would land in Atlanta, GA, arriving in Columbus, GA the next morning.
“I’ll meet you in Atlanta at the airport,” I said, thrilled to hear his voice and to know he was finally coming home. I drove to Atlanta, arriving at the airport at 10:00pm. I found the gate where his flight would arrive and I sat there waiting. And waiting once again! At 2:15am he arrived!
Since that date, we always celebrate Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and other holidays together.
So, today, Memorial Day, 2021, I would like to wish all of the United States of America a happy and safe Memorial Day, especially wishing the HHC 3rd Brigade 9th Infantry Division a special and Happy Memorial Day.
May God bless all of our Veterans. Happy Memorial Day, 2021.