Monday, May 27, 2013

TAPS 2013. National Military Survivors Seminar. Arlington, Va

It’s Monday, Memorial day. I’m sitting in my hotel room reflecting on the past few days. I’m exhausted. It isn’t the running, it’s the emotional toil. Flew into Reagan National on Thursday and checked into our usual event hotel, the Crystal Gateway Marriott. Settled in, had a quick hello meeting to meet all our group leaders. Dinner and it was all low key. Easy. Friday it all started. Opening ceremony, hello from Bonnie and Dr. Darcy Sims. A short presentation that included Gen. Martin Dempsey. We had our first workshop with Darcy. A BBQ dinner and then a bus tour of DC in the evening. There are two stops, one at the WWII memorial where we get out. A second stop is made at the Iwo Jima Memorial, but it is too cold and dark. It is cold. Outside as well as in the hotel. It is a good hotel, but the temp is always too cold for me. A storm up north is dragging Canadian air down and cooling everything. For me, a lot of healing and coming-to-terms with our situation comes not so much from the sessions as from the interactions with our fellow survivors. This year, we have a couple of families that are not only new to TAPS, but their loved ones have only recently died. We might have been fortunate enough to have struggled through the first couple of years before coming here, but my mind really hasn’t been made up on that, yet. Saturday we didn’t do much. This year there is a large focus on the new survivors in the sessions. A couple of them looked interesting, but the particular spiritual direction of them doesn’t really sit with my understanding. I sit with Laurie who struggles to do homework amidst the constant parade of people rushing to sessions. I’m happy to just be there to give her support. In the afternoon, we attend a writing workshop. I don’t consider myself a writer, really, but I’m amazed at what comes out and the tears are therapeutic as always. We grow closer to another set of survivors such as ourselves. There are shuttles going to Arlington Cemetery. We’ve been there before, the size and immensity of the rows upon rows of simple white markers rip just another tear in your already shredded heart. We pass. That evening, is the Grand Banquet. Sitting at our table is a Washington soldiers and his wife. We talk about history, especially things like how they once found a cache of weapons in his home town that were identified as having been buried during the revolution. I tell him about the Japanese Zero found in the jungle trees not 100 feet from an office building on Guam after typhoon Karen. There is a singer scheduled to perform, and he makes his way around the room saying hello to various groups and thinking them for their sacrifice and allowing him to perform. It all just seems like another banquet until he, Rocky Lynne, takes the stage and begins to sing. We sit comforted by fellow survivors, but our emotions as always are just below a too thin sheeting of skin. It doesn’t take much to open the wounds. Rocky is a good performer, and our group starts to suffer a few chairs being abandoned as hurt people have to excuse themselves. Col. Frenchy, and Burnadette commandeer an empty room and our group rallies to it to comfort and gain control. Of course the control is mostly a ruse we perpetrate on ourselves. We sit. We talk, eventually we laugh. Hugs, Kleenex, and finally plans for tomorrow and for the future. The night Is over for the group. Sunday. Hold onto your hats day, I say. This one is going to be a roller coaster ride. In the morning there is a remembrance walk at Arlington. We didn’t go. We participated in Rolling Thunder instead. A protest in reality to the Government’s continual failure to adequately address the POW/MIA situation. Thousands of bikers from across the nation rally and stage a drive through the streets of DC ending in a rally at the Mall below the Lincoln Memorial. We are all assigned bikers to ride with. We present them with tokens of our support and thanks, and they do the same. We are all brothers and sisters. We have all served either as troops or as families of troops. We’ve all lost someone or had someone not return from a foreign conflict. There is music and of course, tears. We visit the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean Memorial, and the Vietnam Wall Memorial. We walk around as a group and walk by the Einstein Statue outside the science museum. Then we go back to the hotel for dinner and to get ready for the night’s big concert at the Capitol building. That’s when it all falls apart for us. It starts out well enough, and we are sitting on the grass and the temperature is nice. The concert starts and the first segment is a performance by Gary Senise and Joe Mantegna. They are speaking parts about two brothers who fought in the National Guard and home, one has been injured and one commits suicide. The program goes on to tell rough stories about the horrors of Korea and a tribute to actor Charles Durning who passed away last year. He was a vet of WWII and ad published an account of his time there. It is read in the first person. We are moving for the door. We have two families who have just lost loved ones to suicide. They have no hope of holding it together. We rally and move towards the exit. We get home and go to our rooms. There are people helping people but Laurie and I retire. We are not sure why we (TAPS) go to the concert. We know we must support it all, but it is so hard on us for the obvious reasons. Monday, Memorial Day. We are scheduled to go to Arlington and sit in the coliseum and listen to the President’s speech. I’m done. I don’t know what he will say, but I’m not interested in listening to him. All my emotions are raw and I just don’t feel like exposing it to him today. We have breakfast with our daughter and grandkids, and I sit to write this. Overall, the conference is a good thing. It is well designed and if, for no other reason, it is good for us to see all the other people who are on the same journey we are on. Too often, in our circle of people, there are many who love us and feel for us, but do not feel the depths of the hurt that we do. To be able to discuss our feeling with others who truly understand is welcomed. Tomorrow we fly home. Stronger and weaker. Invigorated and drained. It’s hard, but every time we do one of these events, we are able to gauge our growth and share with fellow survivors how much we miss our hero and what a great person he was. And, of course, they get to share theirs with us. Arlington, Va


Someday, I'm going to post some totally outrageous and horrible rant, about something I don't mean. I will do this just to see if I can get a reaction from anyone. As it is, this might as well be a personal journal because, I believe nobody ever reads anything I post.