Memorial Day

Soldiers advancing

By: Amoka Mele

For a second year in a row, Memorial Day ceremonies in Hawaii were significantly downsized, with no large groups gathering to pay their respects.  On Memorial Day, we pay honor to our fallen military service members and we honor their families who continue to pay grief’s unrelenting toll for lives that may have been.

Our most honored fallen servicemembers’ job was to serve at the risks of their own lives, to protect and defend the Constitution – the codification of our very way of life.  In combat, these brave Americans fought in some of the most horrific circumstances one can imagine.  These circumstances involved blood, sweat, filth, and disease.  Although combat-related injuries are often the most severe and dramatic health risks encountered during wartime, disease and nonbattle injuries are more common.

Disease and nonbattle injuries include noncombat orthopedic injuries, mental health/combat stress, and gastrointestinal, respiratory, and dermatologic conditions. In reviewing data from aeromedical evacuations from Iraq in 2003, disease and nonbattle injuries were found to be 6 times more common than battle injuries.  Although infectious diseases were only specified in 2.8 percent of the diagnoses, many cases classified as diseases of the digestive tract, respiratory system, and skin and that involved ill-defined symptoms were likely infections.  Furthermore, three-quarters of personnel have experienced diarrhea, and more than two-thirds have had respiratory infections, with an increased incidence during combat operations There have been reports of leishmaniasis, malaria, pneumonia, and other even more exotic and rare infections.  Spanish Flu charged with our Doughboys in France.  Malaria fought with our forces in the Pacific and Vietnam. Typhus, Cholera, Dengue, and the Plague have all been present on military morning reports.  Covid 19 charges with us today. 

Our glorious wartime dead, often fell while battling illnesses and injuries.  They lived in conditions ripe for them to get deathly sick and hurt even before facing a bullet.  Despite these worries and ailments, they still went over the tops of the trenches, they still landed on and then fought across the beaches, they still fought against overwhelming odds in sub-freezing temperatures, and they went willingly down into the valleys time and time and time again.  There was no romance in their actions.  There was no courage without overwhelming fear.  They and their buddies overcame fear by togetherness.  They went forward, scared, but not alone as each did not wish to let down the other. 

More often than not, they died far, far away from home.  Far from the mothers who gave them birth, far from the fathers who read them stories and played catch.  Far from the wives and husbands who would have given them children.  Today, their graves lie far from the buddies who were there at the end when our most sacred veterans died.  

To our Democrat state leaders, overcome your fears with courage.  Stop accepting that our cherished most revered dead’s families are okay to mourn these difficult days alone.   Remember that our fallen charged forward carrying diseases with them. Remember that the parents and family members of our dead never transfer or are voted out of office.  We do not get to retire from grief and longing on birthdays, anniversaries, or on the day, hour and minute when the Chaplain arrived at the door to tell us the most horrific and sad news that anyone should ever receive. 

Our grief is a lifetime assignment. How I wish it were true that time healed all wounds.  There are just some wounds over which even time has no powers to heal.  Over time, politicians, generals, and admirals, all do eventually fade away.  This tragedy did not happen to you.  It happened to us.  While we at least pay all of you with our taxes, please put away your own fears and personal political ambitions for just a few moments today.  Please understand that nothing you say or write during an election or during the performance of your duties will ever equate to what we constantly earn over and over and over, day after day, night after agonizing night.  For once, take a risk for a cause greater than self-promotion and advancement.  Take a risk for a cause greater than Liberal politics.  Our fallen did and we continue to pay the price.  Open up the grave sites so that they and we are not alone.  Join us there, as we continue to grieve the overwhelming costs that we the living survivors pay for the reminder of our lives.