Note: This is an archived post from J McClain on the legacy Best of Us website available at https://bestofuscommunity.wordpress.com/

Memorial Day is a huge mix of emotions for me and a lot of other  Veterans here in America. Through my reading to understand my own  situation and that of other Veterans I came across this article  from the Angry Staff Officer blog coupling this article with what I have been seeing come out form Sebastian Junger  and his new book Tribe, I’ve made an evolution of sorts in my view of Memorial Day and what role we as Veterans play in it.

Before I get into my evolution of thought I want to just first go  over and take the time to explain at least from my perspective (and I  can honestly only speak from personal experience) some of that storm of  thought and emotion of Memorial Day.

“How the fuck am I still alive?”
“Why the fuck am I still alive?”
“Goddammit why him and not me?”
“Was there something that I could have done?”

The day is like the perfect storm of raw nerves and emotions.
Regret – sheer and overwhelming amounts  of regret the likes of which are so overpowering it consumes the mind.  Loss- Never are you going to find a human connection like you had with  your brothers in arms and that connection and part of your personal  history that from a time in your life that was so transformative to who  you are today is forever gone.  Mix emotions like this with a Military-  Civilian gap and you head on a path to more toxic emotions like  resentment and you wind up a self imposed isolation. A lot of Veterans  find themselves in a place like this surrounding ourselves in a wall of  the most toxic and negative emotions lashing out at people we don’t  think understand us but whom we’re unwilling to connect with and share  our experiences. I’ve been down that road and you know what? It’s not  worth it. It’s damaging to not just the divide between ourselves as  Veterans and the Civilian population but your personal relationships in  your life. I get it! Brothers and Sisters I know how it can get to this  point I just got back from it myself.

Now here is the evolution of thought. We all bear some stake in the  divide no single party is blameless in this increasing Military-  Civilian gap. But like Sebastian Junger points out it’s not malicious  and not specifically directed at us. It’s a societal trend this  disconnection we find between us and what sustains our way of daily  life. Our way of life has never been so isolating as it is these days. I  can see that now quite clearly.
I understand the sentiment of not wanting to be thanked for your service  especially Memorial Day of all the days. I will be the first to tell  you I don’t know that I deserve to be thanked for what I’ve done because  I have gotten so much more out of my service than I have ever  contributed with it. From maturing into a man with such a great example  of what the right thing to do is from some of the best examples of men   our country has to offer to laying the foundation of principles and  values that I base my everyday life on. Nothing I do could pay back for  affording me the opportunity to be the man I am today and getting to do a  job that I absolutely loved with people who I can’t even formulate into  words how much they mean to me. It was an absolute privilege that not  everyone is afforded and for that I am thankful.

I have an obligation to the men  who never came home to bridge that  gap and express all the things they will never be able to say. We find ourselves in a unique position in history our generation of service  members. We can put voice to the lessons learned from our time in war.  Lessons like human connection, we stand as a small group who has  rediscovered human connection on a level that hasn’t been known outside  of war and disaster in our society as it slips further towards isolation  and apathy. Last October I attended an event in Vegas and while I was  there I was able to relate what I was dealing with coming home from war  to a gentleman who had just recently lost his father who was a Korean  War Veteran. His father hadn’t talked much about the war but I hopefully  I was able to serve as a bridge and a window into a part of his fathers  past that he never understood. That was one of the most meaningful  experiences I’ve had in my life being able to do that for another human  being. It is our obligation to honor those that came before us and who  are by merit of Military service part of our lineage now.

So the next time somebody says to you “Thank you for your service” on  Memorial Day please please please be an arbiter of change and open a  dialogue and bridge that gap we owe it to those who came before us and  those who never made it home to be ambassadors of our proud lineage.