Like many Americans, Memorial Day has always had meaning in my life. It meant a day off from school (or work) and it stood for family gatherings, barbecues and watermelon. Sometimes, it served as an extra day to get stuff done that I couldn’t cram into the weekend. Oh, I almost forgot; it’s a day to remember soldiers that died fighting for freedom.
The day’s true meaning hasn’t changed, but this year, my views have. My cousin is an almost 22-year old Marine deployed to Afghanistan. We are separated by a big age difference and, for the first half of his life, the states between Arizona and Georgia didn’t do anything to bridge the gap. By the time he moved nearer to me, he approached the teen years and I assumed he wouldn’t want to hang out with a comparatively “old” cousin. Maybe he would have…I don’t know because I never asked.
When he enlisted in the Marines last year to get his life on track, my first thought was “Is he crazy? He could get killed.” (You see, I’m a big chicken and don’t venture into risky activities because I’m too attached to the idea of having my body in one piece without the aid of casts, pins or artificial limbs.) To this day, I don’t know why…why the military?…why the Marines?…why not an office job? I don’t know because I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to be nosey, or worse, allow my risk aversion to impact his life decisions. There’s a lot I don’t know about him, but it really doesn’t matter because we have blood in common and that trumps all.
I worry about his safety. I worry about how my aunt and uncle would cope if something did happen to him. In fact, I worry about how the whole family would hold up. I worry because worrying is what I do and years of practice taught me to do it well.
Today, it occurs to me that he could interpret my lack of involvement as a lack of caring; which is not the case. I’m sure I said I loved him as I hugged him in March before his deployment. But, I don’t think I said I’m proud of him or that I pray for his safety. Even though I never told him, I just hope he knows. This Memorial Day, my thoughts and prayers are dedicated to him, and all of the others serving with him.