When it happened, I cannot recall. It just seemed to happen. I could not take it anymore and I wanted the world to know. I wanted those passing by to be reminded. I could not take one more expression of gratitude for a day that was not mine to receive. I have long struggled to accept the expressions of gratitude on our day, I could not possibly bear another on theirs. This crusade was met with little resistance. She could see the pain and anger, she must have, there was no way she could not have. She approved without a word of protest. I frantically purchased all that was needed at a time when, while not broke or destitute, we had little to spare.
With every brush stroke, I tried to capture the impossible. I tried to capture the true meaning of such a day. I tried to bestow upon each stroke the pain and suffering. I tried so hard to let the world know what that day was about. It was not about those of us that survived, let alone the fucking discounts, days off, and capitalistic exploitations. With every stroke, their names and dates appeared. With every brush stroke, their names were painted on that plaque. That plaque I staked into the ground for all to see.
For a year those names stood alone, until with every stroke yet another name and date appeared. My heart accelerated with every motion. I hoped so desperately it would be the last.
With every stroke, I hoped others might understand. How could one ignore so many names? How could one not take a moment and understand that day’s true meaning? How could one possibly see those names, those dates, and bestow an expression of gratitude upon me? I know that these expressions are given by those truly grateful, but they are not mine to receive! I wanted, if for just a moment, to destroy those cheerful smiles. I wanted, if just for a moment, for them to understand. I wanted them to remember and to be grateful.
I have displayed it each and every year. I have placed it not for me, no, I need no reminder. I am reminded every day. I know their names, dates, and reasons why without as much as a glance. I have watched young and old pass by, stop, and examine. I have watched as those smiles melt away and become filled with sorrow, if only for a moment. I have wished only that the smiles return with gratitude and understanding.
It has been three years since my hope was shattered yet again, but there were no brush strokes. Every passing year I stood there and stared. I knew what was missing and yet I could not do it. The very thought brought the crushing feeling again. How could I? How could I bring my hand to paint that name? How could a son write his father’s name? How could I write the name of the man who gave me so much? He was not the father of biology but the father of choice. He chose to be the father I never had. From such a young age he gave me what my own father could not. For three years a name that deserved to reside among the rest, a name that deserved to remind others, was left unwritten.
This year, the names are different. They are from the hand of another. The time had long passed when we had so little means. Such names deserved so much more than I could provide them. This year, the names are once again displayed for the young and old to be reminded. This year, however, it will be displayed for the world to see, with every name.
Soldiers of Special Forces of 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) memorialize two of their fallen brothers during a memorial held at Kunduz Airfield in Afghanistan on Nov. 7, 2016. Maj. Andrew Byers, the commander, and Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Gloyer, an intelligence sergeant, were killed in action during the Battle of Boz Qandahari, Afghanistan, on Nov. 2-3, 2016. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Connor Mendez) Source.
Jake Smith is a law enforcement officer and former Army Ranger with four deployments to Afghanistan.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.