To Him We Say, “Well Done.”

“…I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barracks ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that old soldiers never die; they just fade away. And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty.” ~ General of the Army Douglas MacArthur

Today is Memorial Day, a National Holiday which affords many a day off from work. A day which marks the first day of summer for some (although the official start begins with the June Solstice, June 20 or 21, depending on your location.)

Today is a day at the beach, barbecues, another reason for stores to hold sales  and for the Commander in Chief, President Obama, the the start of a vacation.

Today is Memorial Day — a day of remembrance.

Remembrance for those that have fallen.
Remembrance for those that are fading and tucked out of the way.
Men who fought in WWII, Korea, Viet Nam.
Men who witnessed brothers killed in the line of duty and returned home.
Men that have fallen due to age or chronic illness.

Veterans in nursing homes long forgotten.

Men that sit alone. Waiting.

There are 146 Veteran Nursing Homes (13 more pending) in the United States. My father spent some time in one after suffering through major strokes.

I recall one visit in particular.

On my way into the building I passed an old man sitting in a wheel chair who asked me for a light. He apparently was outside to smoke. I didn’t have one and replied “No, I’m sorry” and kept walking.

I went to my father’s room and found it empty. I looked in the activity room and he was not there. I continued my search in the dining area and lobby, still unable to locate him. I thought perhaps he had a doctor’s appointment or went out with another visitor. After exhausting all possibilities, I asked a nurse where he was.

“Your father went outside for a smoke.”

We must have passed each other in the interim without notice. I headed back outside.

There sat my Da, a lone faded hero. Alone. Looking for a light, the man I hurried past without looking in his eyes.

He looked so old, so worn; a man I did not recognize.

Today, I encourage each of you to remember not only our fallen heroes, but our fading heroes; the ones in Veteran Homes around the country that they served.

They are sitting alone waiting for a light.

Be that light. Stop by any day of the year and spend some time with them. Bring your sons and daughters for an unedited, politically incorrect, history lesson told in first person narrative.

Open your mind and heart. Listen, learn and love. Don’t overlook them in your rush to the next moment.

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35 Responses to To Him We Say, “Well Done.”

  1. Anne May 31, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

    What a truly beautiful post! We all could learn a valuable lesson here, t slow down and smell the flowers. Offer a stranger a smile. Something lasting, even a light in their sometime dark lives. Thank you for sharing today.

    A blessed Memorial Day to you and your Deborah!

    Hugs Anne

  2. Megan May 31, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    I think people get so caught up with the parties and relaxing at the beach that the real reason they had a 3 day weekend is because of all those that fought and are still fighting for our country! I myself being laid up with my surgery have really reflected on this being Memorial Day meaning remember. Now if I hadn’t had my surgery I may have been like most and enjoyed the extra day! Your story of your dad was very touching and sad at the same time. I think some men go to those homes and end up dying alone and messed up because of the wars they fought in. Thank you for having us all remember those that did such a service for us!

  3. Kathy Eykamp May 31, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

    Well said Deborah! We live in a military town so there is plenty of patriotism to go around. I fly The American Flag every day it doesn’t rain. Everyone I know has someone who has either served or is serving in some branch of the military, including my husband and my father. We live directly across the street from the oldest Navy Hospital in the country and my kids know to come in when “Colors” is played every night. I love living in Portsmouth but one of my favorite things is the Memorial Day Parade we have each year (also one of the oldest in the Nation!), we scream ourselves silly when anyone in uniform marches past and get even louder when an older Veteran passes.

    Thanks for sharing your story about your Father, we should remember our Veterans. Hope you had a great holiday! Kathy

  4. Parsley May 31, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    Remembering the veterans with you.

  5. ain't for city gals May 31, 2010 at 4:05 pm #

    Oh my, Deborah…that is sad and so not like you…rushing to your next moment….My dad has received lots of medical care from the VA hospitals over the years and I have to say it has all be excellent. We have a VA “nursing home” in Prescott Az and if we needed extra help that is where my dad would go….hopefully, it will never come to that for us. I have just been going through lots of our clothing and we just have too much…I’m going to gather it all and take it to the VA on my next trip to Prescott…I’m sure someone there can put it to good use. Take care…

  6. beth May 31, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    Wow, you brought tears to my eyes, Deborah. An important reminder to not only give time to Veterans, but to all the lonely elderly people around us.
    Thank you for this reminder today.
    Beth.

  7. Vicki Root May 31, 2010 at 6:42 pm #

    How sad Deborah, but I know what you mean. I didn’t see my dad for a few years and when I finally did, I wondered who this old man was talking to me. He is a Veteran also and refuses to enter a home. So far he’s staying where he is, with a wife he’s trying to take care of, who has Alzheimers. That’s why I’ve made such a change in my life, to be closer and help him. What a sad world this is when the men who fought so hard and cared so much, end up with so little. Thanks for the nudge…

  8. The Starr Family May 31, 2010 at 8:08 pm #

    Thank you Deborah for sharing this… your words ring so true and resounding.

  9. Sue at Rue-Mouffetard May 31, 2010 at 8:08 pm #

    A very touching post….you got past the BBQ’s and the fireworks…the 3 day long weekend…and reminded people what this holiday is all about….Thank you.

  10. Maggie May 31, 2010 at 8:30 pm #

    Another beautiful and touching post! How I love to visit here. It is sad that the older people of our society are often overlooked. It would seem though that we are living by example. I think it was a shame that the Commander in Chief could not make the time to say a few words of thanks at Arlington for the men and women who have and are serving our country.

  11. Leslie, the Home Maker May 31, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    What’d ya hafta go and make me cry fer?
    This phrase did it:
    “There sat my Da, a lone faded hero.
    Alone.
    Looking for a light, the man I hurried past without looking in his eyes.”

    My dad is a hero, too, in the Army. He is alone, too.
    Waaaahhh!
    Where’s my Kleenex?
    And I think I need to call him.
    Love,
    Leslie

  12. melissa May 31, 2010 at 10:57 pm #

    That is a true honest admission. Thank you. It signifies just how much of a rat race we live in…getting caught up in insignificant things, that we walk past the important.

    We can all lay claim to that in one way or another. Here we remember our fallen on Remembrance Day, November 11th. It is a very somber event, but one which means alot. My father in law fought in the 2nd World War, and find it an honour to stand in the rain/sleet or snow to remember. WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.

  13. Ginny Roth June 1, 2010 at 6:33 am #

    Deborah,

    My brother is a veteran of the Vietnam War.
    Every day he remains alive is a miracle.
    It’s been over a year now since he was diagnosed with a non hodgkin’s lymphoma.
    He now is fighting for his own life, and was accepted in a clinical drug trial, having failed all the traditional forms of treatment.
    Clinical drug trials are the last phase in the cycle of drug development for FDA approval.

  14. Colleen June 1, 2010 at 7:19 am #

    Oh my, I am sitting here with a lump in my throat – thank you for posting this and reminding all of us to honor and love..

  15. Dawn June 1, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    I love reading your stories Deborah. It must have been a weird feeling when you realized you had walked right past your Da without seeing him. You made a good point about the veteran’s who are fading away in VA hospitals/homes. Thanks for opening our eyes.
    Hugs,
    Dawn

  16. Victoria June 1, 2010 at 12:08 pm #

    Deborah, Your post’s always give me goose bumps- they are always so profound and extremely well written- and always leave me with much to think about in the ensuing days. Thank you so much for this beautiful post, I think it always helps to remember whats most important- even when it is right in front of us.

  17. Gloria June 1, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    As a retired air force wife, I so appreciate your lovely blog post. I don’t think folks often understand the sacrifices that our men go through in order to provide a safe haven for the citizens of our country. Thanks for the remembrance!

  18. The Thrifty Designer June 1, 2010 at 6:44 pm #

    What a beautiful post, and a great reminder to us all. I have a family full of former service men – men who served so that I can enjoy my freedom. Men like your dad. What a blessing our freedom is. What a blessing those men and women are.

  19. Cotton June 1, 2010 at 8:26 pm #

    You got me in my gut with this one. I want to be a light. Beautifully written Deborah. Three cheers for the politically incorrect part.

  20. Cindy @ The Flipping Couple June 1, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    Your post is so beautiful and so heartbreaking. Thanks for reminding us what the holiday is really for and for reminding me to stop running so fast and look into people’s eyes.

  21. Claudia@DipityRoad June 2, 2010 at 12:53 am #

    You and I wrote about our fathers today… only you spoke so much more eloquently.

    Amazed that any other president would be bashed in the press for “taking time off” on memorial day — or what is happening in the gulf. Just makes me sad.

    May your summer bring you joy…

    Thanks for your brilliant insight.

    Claudia

  22. Melissa June 2, 2010 at 7:31 am #

    Deborah,
    That was so lovely, poignant and sad all at the same time. We are in such a rush these days..everyone looking down at there blackberry’s & I-phones that no one seems to look each other in the eyes anymore. No one takes time to sit and talk face to face…it’s all facebook or email. We need to slow down and take time out of our schedules to listen to each other, hear the heartaches that people are going through and be a comforting soul and a gentle touch to people in need. Thanks for reminding us to slow down, be grateful to our war heros and take time with them…for all too soon they will be gone.
    Love ya
    Melissa

  23. Stephenie from Decorating Addiction June 2, 2010 at 7:42 am #

    I read this post on my phone on Memorial Day while we were just arriving at the park; It was a nice reminder of the real meaning behind this holiday that brings barbeques, fireworks, fairs, and a day off from work. I was surprised you had walked past your Da and didn’t recognize him in your rush; it seems so out of character from what I know of you, but I completely understand. As always, your writing is thought-provoking and effective in triggering a range of emotions. I look forward to your posts!

  24. Jennifer June 2, 2010 at 8:00 am #

    absolutely necessary post. hard to hear but so, so true. i love how we place such an emphasis on children in need, but the elderly, vets or no, are of the utmost importance and are so precious.

  25. Olivia June 2, 2010 at 7:06 pm #

    Deborah..

    It didn’t seem the same this year as many have passed over the long winter that had wonderful tales of WWII. Most remembered the digging.. and more digging and yet they hardly recall their battles. Many here still whistle in bird call codes as it meant life or death .. as I shop I’ll hear friendly bird calls.. in a diner I’ll hear chirp or two.. But every month that goes by is time lost to tell the truth and the adventures of these brave people.

    Thanks for reminding me!!

    with love,
    Olivia

  26. Janean June 3, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    i have a lump in my throat. my dad’s a korean war hero and is in his last stage of life. we forget as the years add up, how much these men and women (along with their families) sacrificed. thanks for sharing.

  27. Marilyn June 3, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    What a poignant story. Makes you stop and think.

    My dad is a veteran as is my uncle. My brother, a US citizen living in Australia, serves in the Australian Air Force after serving for our Air Force. My hat’s off to all veterans. Some of your are gone, but none of you are forgotten.

    Smiles~
    Marilyn

  28. Rhonda June 3, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    It is sad to know that so many of our men in uniform are forgotten. Your words are beautiful and sad.
    We did visit one of our neighbors who was a highly decorated Marine. He celebrated his 76th birthday the day before Memorial Day. I am making him a basket of little primitive flag pillows.

    I can’t wait to get your package!!! Thanks.
    Rhonda

  29. Laura Ingalls Gunn June 3, 2010 at 8:01 pm #

    Oh you truly, truly get it my friend. Since my visits to the European WWII cemetaries in the early days of this decade I have been unable to frolic with picnics and such knowing what these men and women gave~ the ultimate gift of theirselves.

    I salute your Da.

  30. Susie June 4, 2010 at 12:08 am #

    What a touching post my friend…it has brought me to tears…in a good way. Thank you! xoxo Susie

  31. Kim McLaughlin June 4, 2010 at 4:16 pm #

    Your story touched me so deeply. A sweet, but sad story. May it be a lesson to all of us.
    xoxo,
    Kim

  32. deb newton June 5, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    So well said. Thank you for such an amazing post.
    *hugs*deb

  33. T.bird June 6, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    Deborah,

    I wanted to stop by and thank you for coming by my blog this week. I just read your post, and I think it is amazing and a heart felt tribute. I’m loving your blog and I’m following you now. I trust you are having a wonderful weekend!

    T.bird

  34. Betsy June 7, 2010 at 7:09 pm #

    I just started following your blog. I have forwarded to many, I so much enjoyed your post and so true. We do need to slow down and listen to the real heroes. My father who is deceased , I really miss and regret not listening more.
    Thank You,
    Betsy

  35. carole July 4, 2010 at 9:34 am #

    Oh, I cried. The way you told the story will resonate with me for a long time.
    We miss so much in out hurry up world.
    You have quite to flair, as I look over your posts, for creating stories with your words.
    Thank you for taking time to come by and say hi : )
    I am taking your button and putting it on my blog.
    Have a wonderful day.
    peace
    carole

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