Monday, May 25, 2015

We made it to Arlington

Memories go back to the beginning of you — another time, another war.
There's a hollow hurt that's deep inside an empty longing
When your heart is taken to a distant, foreign shore.

We were alone when you were born.
The familiar hollow hurt and empty longing ours to share.
In a far away land, your father wore the uniform.

The years went by; our nation's troubles increased.
I prayed your life would be secure, assured by your father’s service.
But that was just something I dreamed.

"Is this the purpose?" I asked myself as you walked toward the plane.
To wear a uniform and go to war to risk your all.
And who is to blame?

You did not return to the parades and fanfare as your father had.
But all that mattered was that you did.
Many came home draped under a flag, and many never have.

Your brothers and nephews now put on the uniform and dog tags.
Decades: I have not been without that hurt and longing.
We have been lucky, never being handed a golden star with folded flag.

Our homes contain our desperation, worries and tears.
Our thoughts stretch to battlefields and soldiers by your side.
Our prayers and pleadings fall on God’s ears.

But our country’s fortune was never lost on me
When I visited and thanked the named and those unknown
And when I see the legacy carried through the family.

And now I'm laid down to rest
By your father amongst the rows of white
In great company — a nation's heroes, no less.

My grandpa Haight, who served in WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, died in 2009. He was almost 90 years old and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He and his family settled in Fairfax, Virginia where three generations of Haights grew up, or at least grew up coming and going on a regular basis, in their house. 

My grandma unexpectedly died 3 years after my grandpa from a stroke. She was two weeks away from her 85th birthday and was buried with my grandpa at Arlington. My grandma's husband, brother-in-law(s?), 4 sons, son-in-law, and 2 grandchildren (and more) served and serve in the Military — many of them have deployed at least once. 

It reluctantly became time to say goodbye to that house after my grandma died. We spent a lot of time going through the contents of a home where husband and wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren had spent 40+ years. Now, my depression-era raised grandma was notorious for saving everything and anything. And she often wrote down notes on scraps of paper, old envelopes and sticky notes. Years after we emptied the house itself, we were still finding her jotted-down thoughts in boxes of papers.

My Aunt Shauna found parts of a poem of sorts my grandma began the day she sent her oldest son Clayton off to fight in the Vietnam War. Shauna shared it with my father (who was deployed to Afghanistan at the time), who shared it with my mom, who shared it with me. While not widely known, I often take my creative writing down poetic and lyrical paths and my mother asked me to finish my grandma's poem for her.

I'm not sure exactly when my Uncle Clayton left for Vietnam, but the U.S. entered the war in 1965. I originally received my grandma's poem in January 2014. I finished it in May 2014, and my mom read it to the entire family at Christmas that year. I decided Memorial Day 2015 was as good a day as any to share it online.

I'm eternally grateful for the sacrifice of every service member and their families. And I'm especially grateful for those who gave their lives for our country and for the sacrifices my family members have made. And I know it's all just a matter of time until we all see each other again.

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