So…yesterday was Memorial Day, which means that the weekend was Memorial Day weekend. I grew up in a military family and I remember that about the age of 14, I figured out that Memorial Day was a solemn occasion that should produce some sort of reverential attitude. Having served for a while in the Army, I began to revere the day even more. I remember what it felt like to grow close to people because you spent time together in what most likely was an overall unpleasant or restrictive (for my safety) environment.
All that was ok. I did the math today and I’ve spent about 4 years and 3 months not in the United States serving the US. Loved most of it, hated who I’d become after Haiti, but that was offset by most of my other experiences. Being a Soldier let me go lots of cool places I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Panama was hot, but a good experience. Honduras was a pretty good time, except for shifts sitting in a guard tower alone for hours in the middle of the night. Afghanistan gave me the chance to get out and be an encouragement for other Soldiers. Memorial Day though, never hit me before like it has this year.
I’ve been back from Afghanistan for almost 2 years. Perhaps, spending the last 2 weeks with Soldiers and developing new friends has something to do with it. Perhaps it’s because 3 years ago on Memorial Day weekend, my battalion lost 2 great guys to traffic accidents and they were the first memorial ceremonies I’d taken part in. Either way, yesterday was kind of emotional. (Warehouse 13 Spoiler Alert) I probably shouldn’t have watched the last episode of Warehouse 13 in such a state, but it kind of told the story of how it feels to have to move on.
I’ve spent my whole life meeting new people, just to have to say goodbye to them later. It became easy to just not grow especially attached to everyone, because they were going to leave (or I was). It was also easy to grow attachments to people I can relate to in a relatively short time. And then I saw Pete struggle with having to say goodbye to something he’d grown to love, something that had become the majority of his identity. I spent the whole episode crying because I would miss these fictional characters who I related so well with. I especially cried during Pete’s defining moment(s) as he talked about the love he had for everyone. I know how that feels, having to say goodbye to the best friends you’ve ever had because it was time to move on. It’s not cool.
Memorial Day is a good day to remember not that you had to say goodbye, but that you had the chance to say hello. So whether it’s running an obstacle course through the jungles of Panama, or watching aircraft take off in the middle of Afghanistan, friendships are good. Moving on is good too. It’s not pleasant, it’s not easy but it may be what you need to get the most out of life. I’ve got some great friends wherever I go, but I meet new great people and so in the end I’ve been blessed. I hope you will be too.