Today, I have been reflecting upon Memorial Day. My mind flooded with stories.
~ ~ ~
November 16, 2012 (reposted from my old blog)
I tied the tourniquet around his arm. “Any plans for Veterans Day?” I asked.
“I went to the parade. We always recognize Veterans Day and Memorial Day,” he answered.
“Oh really?” I palpated for a vein at his antecubital site, at the bend of his arm.
“Yeah… my brother was drafted in the Vietnam War…”
It was a blind stick. Even though I couldn’t see his vein, I could feel it. I aimed and slid the needle into his arm.
“He died in combat.”
Danggit. I missed. I pulled the needle out. “I’m sorry to hear that… and unfortunately, I have to stick you again.”
“It’s okay, I’m used to it, ever since chemo.”
Another vein appeared. “Your brother.. how old was he?”
Cleaning the site with alcohol, I wished I could wipe away his pain from his loss. Or at least, pain from getting poked twice. “Were you close?” I stuck him again, successfully getting a flashback in my butterfly catheter. The blood ran smoothly into the lab tubes.
“Of course. He was my big brother.”
I released the tourniquet, applied pressure to the site, and removed the needle.
“He left after graduating from high school. And when he came back, he came back in a tin box.”
~ ~ ~
A few days ago, I watched “Oh, Saigon,” a documentary about a Vietnamese-American woman and her hope to suture her family’s wounds inflicted by the Vietnam war. Her father had been in the military and would have been killed by the communists had he been caught, thus he hurried his family onto the last helicoptered flight out during the fall of Saigon.
On the surface, her family story does not appear much different from most refugee stories; her family escaped, resettled in America, and assimilated into their new culture. But in the latter half of the film, we learn about her father, and how he considered himself a loser. He fought for South Vietnam, only to be defeated by North Vietnam. His own brothers saw him as a traitor, as one who betrayed his country, fought for the wrong cause, then abandoned it completely.
Her father’s confession was striking; it was a perspective I had rarely heard before. In my middle school years, I recall learning about the Vietnam War, but my American history textbook glossed over the the outcome. It briefly summarized, American forces withdrew from Vietnam. But what did that really mean? What did it really mean for the Vietnamese? What did it really mean for Americans?
~ ~ ~
In 2006, I learned that David, my highschool classmate, died in Iraq. Here is an excerpt from Representative Ted Poe, during a House Session, played during his burial.
For the last year he patrolled the vast desert battlefields of war-torn Iraq in search of the enemies of freedom. This December his tour of duty was over and he would be coming back to Fort Hood to spend Christmas with those he cared about. On December 26, Captain Frazier and three other soldiers were killed in Baghdad by a cowardly enemy using an explosive device…
He was a devout Christian who remained active in his faith in Texas, West Point, or stationed in lands far, far away. He was always willing to lend a hand at Sunday school, his faith was his cornerstone. Those who know Captain Frazier knew a man respected and admired by all. He was a born leader. Always doing the right thing.
He applied to The West Point Military Academy, he said, out of sense of duty and his way of giving to a country that provided- back to a country that provided him unlimited opportunities. Such powerful words of patriotism from one of America’s finest…
It was in his mission to protect our soldiers and innocent Iraqis from the violent militants, those who stand against freedom and liberty…
Today Captain Frazier has finally come home to Texas. In fact, he is being buried as I speak now here on the House floor.
Captain David Frazier lived and died as General Mack Arthur said, for duty, for honor, for country.
God bless the Frazier family and David Frazier and all those who wear the uniform of the American warrior…
and that’s just the way it is.
~ ~ ~
That’s just the way it is…
I wonder what it would be like, if my patient (whose brother died in Vietnam), the father from Oh, Saigon, and David’s family all met.
I wonder what it would be like for them, to realize that though they all suffered, each in their own way…
they were all fighting for the same thing.