There’s a butterfly scar on my left knee that I refer to as my war injury. It’s the legacy of a spectacular crash into a metal telephone pole support, while riding what my sisters and I fondly called “The War Bike.”
Riding the War Bike somehow connected me to a glorious past as I studied American history in school; one with freedom fighting revolutionary battles, brave Clara Bartons, the storming of Normandy beaches and concentration camp liberations. War heroes were our country’s legacy. They became leaders and achieved greatness back at home during peacetime. In the 1960s of my childhood, we viewed ourselves as a country on a giant uptick, the defender of liberty, the right side of the cold war, a legacy of the Greatest Generation, of Ike and Kennedy and champions of world-wide liberty. The War Bike stood for all of that, in some weird, inchoate way.
I don’t recall what finally happened to the War Bike. It was eclipsed one birthday by a bright orange ten-speed with ram’s horn handlebars. After that my mother’s bike was forgotten; an unfitting, embarrassing relic for a pre-teen girl.
This Memorial Day, as we honor those who have given their lives, their limbs and their mental health and well-being when their nation asked them to go, let’s all take a moment to reflect on the real meaning of this holiday. Regardless of your politics, our veterans and their families deserve our nation’s respect and gratitude. We owe them the best chance to re-take the stage of their lives when they return home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Take a moment of silence on Monday to remember them, and to remind your children and neighbors just what that means. And then do something. Take action. It’s the best part of what it means to be an American. Give time, give dollars, learn more, discover what families have served in your town, investigate what organizations are helping vets at the grassroots level. Volunteer. Give back. It doesn’t take a huge investment to show a veteran that their sacrifices count.
One place to start is www.bobwoodrufffoundation.org.