“…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.
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.