In the US, Memorial Day is celebrated every year on the last Monday in May. Growing up, Memorial Day to me meant a long weekend full of barbecuing, soccer tournaments, and knowing that the next week it would probably be warm enough to wear shorts to school. I’m sure in class they told us to reflect on the loss of life of Americans in the Armed Forces, but as someone who grew up in the suburbs in New Jersey with no connection to the military, I’m not sure if I ever did.
Today, as a military wife, I feel differently. I still like barbecuing and a three-day weekend, but now I do reflect on those who have died during their military service, especially the thousands who have died and have been injured in the two wars that began when I was in high school.
They are not anonymous to me. I think about the loss of limbs, eyes, and innocence that are the price of armed conflict. I remember phone calls, emails, and text messages about deaths and injuries. I think about new dads meeting their newborn babies over Skype.
I have spent a lot of time writing about my life as a military spouse, and I have shared some of that here on Matador. Matador over the years has published powerful pieces about and by service members and veterans because, as young people, adventurers, athletes, travelers, and thinkers, they embody a lot of what Matador stands for.
This year on Memorial Day weekend, set aside some reading time:
1. In Rob Chursinoff’s War and peace on a Costa Rican beach, he meets a Marine who is willing to answer all of his questions about fighting in Iraq.
2. Notes on temperatures in a warzone details Jake Reed’s experience in Afghanistan and Qatar. He remembers everything through its temperature:
The operating temperature of the human body. The temperature of the blood that flows through your veins. The temperature of the blood that pours from shrapnel wounds and seeps along the floor of the Heath Craige Joint Theater Hospital in Bagram.
3. My mother-in-law likes to say, “Join the Navy, your parents will see the world,” because she has traveled all over to visit my husband and I and my brother-in-law, who is also active duty. In Join the Navy see the world, Theodore Scott lays out how joining the Navy is still a ticket to travel: “My first deployment was a slow trip around the Pacific Ocean, stopping at major port cities along the way.”
4. Full disclosure: I wrote these next two. Notes on having a husband deployed in Afghanistan is about my greatest fear, losing my husband while he is deployed, and…
5. How to be a military wife is my step-by-step instruction manual on how to be the best Navy wife you can be. Remember to have a few canned responses when people ask you how you handle spending so much time without your husband, like, “I’m really looking forward to eating Doritos for dinner three nights a week.”
6. Elizabeth Welsh grew up as a military brat and describes this “mobile lifestyle” in Thoughts from a homeless military brat. As someone who has moved all over the world, she writes that she has now “abandoned trying to define ‘home’ as an address.”
7. Most military bases have some type of gym to stay physically active, but in 10 ways to keep active while deployed with the US military, Richard Alexander gives tips on getting the most out of your time while stationed overseas.
8. 24 hours in Afghanistan’s violent Helmand province is a 2-part video in which journalist Ben Anderson explains footage from 24 hours in Helmand in 2007.