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One year ago, on the Thursday before Memorial Day, I wrote a blog and diary entry about life in New York, which on this particular day, "went on" while so many thousands of injured veterans and other casualties of the military action in Iraq found them selves suffering in what appeared to be a sea of indifference.  

One year ago, on the Thursday before Memorial Day, I wrote a blog and diary entry about life in New York, which on this particular day, "went on" while so many thousands of injured veterans and other casualties of the military action in Iraq found them selves suffering in what appeared to be a sea of indifference.  

At that moment, it seemed to me, that we let the routine and busy day to day routine of life cloud the reality around us, the reality of a tragedy that has resulted from this nightmare we still find ourselves in Iraq.  I wrote the below piece in part as a response to the following report that had been broadcast the night before on PBS NEWSHOUR that looked at the human Costs of the Iraq War....

Link to PBS NEWSHOUR REPORT from May 2007

This year, I didn't write, but I do recommend one of the most moving Broadcast news pieces to touch on the pain of the returning often physically, mentally or emotionally injured.  It's about the children and how they, as kids, cope with parents who, being human, come back to America after experiencing moments beyond anything we here in the safety of our sheltered worlds, can't even imagine.  It's from ABC NEWS....


Here are my Note's from last year on the Thursday Before Memorial Day: Cody Lyon

The weather goes from cool to warm and the sun is bright this particular Thursday in New York’s East Village. At a Mexican takeout shop, beef tacos are purchased, then eaten sitting on a bench in Tompkins Square Park, under a tree that appears very lush, and filled with chirping birds.

The park is crowded, the playground full of kids, the grass covered with sun bathers, the dog run is noisy, chaotic.

At the dog run, people gather, watching the dogs, apparently a fight has broken out, first between dogs then it spreads among humans. One man pushes another, barks and shouts are traded, as all the dog owners yell at an older man, because of what they say is an aggressive dog.

But the cell phone rings, it’s a friend in Alabama, she says hello and the conversation lasts for a while.

She’s been dating a new guy, she thinks she really likes him and he’s taking her on a trip to Las Vegas.

Near the end, she asks the price of gas and says that it's over $3 a gallon down there. Fortunately, she drives a compact car.

Meanwhile, the older man in the dog run is not leaving, voices are even louder, the others appear mad, they keep shouting at him to leave, the dogs keep barking.

The phone rings again, it’s another really good friend, it goes to voicemail.

"Hey, I’ve had a problem and I need some advice" the message he left said.

Later, after doing some work, a bike ride is taken across the village on 9th Street to the Westside. The bike crosses Fifth Avenue, Washington Square Park’s arch is to the south, the sidewalks still crowded even for 8 pm, couples holding hands, more men with dogs, shopping bags are everywhere, summer fashions are here.

The bike makes it to Christopher Street the river is in sight, headed towards the pier, there’s music everywhere, smiles cross many faces, but up ahead there is congestion.

Two women in a car are blocking traffic, apparently one took another home, the street is narrow, they’re in an SUV, cars begin backing up, horns are being honked. Finally one of the women gets out, she’s young, very pretty and she appears oblivious to the anger behind her.

In one of the cars behind the two’s, a man who is driving and listening to disco music hollers at her, she doesn’t appear to hear it.

"I’d like to go home too b*tch " he screams in a slightly southern accent, while she climbs onto the sidewalk with her IPOD head-phones on.

Once the biker makes it to the river, the sun is gone and the sky is filled with pinks, orange and streaks of red. The river glistens, almost metallic, as the rays of light glimmer from the west that is New Jersey, the mainland.

To the south, is New York’s financial district, the skyline still misses it towers but a new one has filled in at least part of the gap.

A man walks by, he smiles, a smile is returned, here appears the peace and that moment of reflection only sharable by writing it down.

A couple walks by, they are laughing, holding hands, one of them just told a story about his Mother and the fact that her voice cracks when she's angry.

A large number of joggers are out, all shapes, all sizes, some run fast, as if they're catching up on training for a marathon. They compete with bikers for space. Sometimes, the shoot each other nasty looks.

In the grass, two women on a blanket appear to have brought in some wine, they better be careful, the park police will give them a ticket.

The view to the south offers New York harbor, the statue of Liberty but then, the geographic direction of Tennessee comes to mind.

The night before, PBS "Newshour" was watched, part of a report was aired, it was called "The Costs of War in Iraq" and was reported by Economics correspondent Paul Solman. That report gave pause to this beautiful and busy day in New York City that was now saying goodbye.

Part of the story showed returning Army reservist Brad Heun of Tennessee.

The "Newshour" report showed Huen as he struggled to get up out of a chair, obviously in great pain. It also offered a photograph of Heun, at an earlier date, a well built, athletic looking young man, who’d probably have fit in with the fit and fast joggers this day in New York.

Heun’s vertebrae was crushed in a 2003 truck accident in Iraq.

He now has fused discs, a steel bar in his back and constant excruciating pain in his hip and leg according to Solman’s report.

"Literally, it feels as if somebody just took a baseball bat and blindsided you across your back" Heun told the "Newshour".

In the report, viewers learn that the army discharged him with only 20 percent disability, which means no benefits. Heun does get medical care from the VA plus $2,500 a month to support a family of five, but no insurance for his wife or children. He’s trying to afford a COBRA policy, but that is too expensive. His 2 year old daughter now needs surgery, but the family has had to put it off, because they simply can not afford it.

Heuen’s wife Beverly tells correspondent Solman, that they don’t want to do the daughter’s surgery at the expense of her not having a home to live in.

"I think it’s a disgrace to this country for me to even be sitting here trying to tell you this" she told "Newshour".

Earlier in the report, Brad Heun described his constant physical pain in graphic detail.

"At its worst, I have been on an emergency room gurney, curled up, and not even be able to concentrate on simple questions" he told "Newshour".

Concentrating on simple questions, during a sunset along the Hudson in New York City overcame earlier observations of urban life. Questions about the fate of the around 25 thousand seriously injured military members coming home from Iraq begin to puncture the relative calm of an evening by the river. How many limbs have been lost, how many bones crushed, how many skulls shattered, how many bills not paid, how many minds damaged? Why?

Suddenly, some questions appeared to have answers.

Memorial Day was just a few days away.

Originally posted to codylyon on Thu May 22, 2008 at 07:18 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for the diary... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CalNM, Crashing Vor

    and indeed life does just seem to go on, however, I believe many more are aware now of the intense strain on our military, as well as the plight of our veterans who are returning home.  While Memorial Day is just one day of the year, it seems that there is much more focus on those serving and who have served all year round.

  •  It was all summed up in the commercial I saw (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CalNM, LNK

    for La-Z-Boy's Memorial Day Sale:

    "Comfort.  It's what we do."

    Saying, "The surge is working" . . . is working my last nerve.

    by Crashing Vor on Thu May 22, 2008 at 07:52:17 PM PDT

  •  Iraq/Afghanistan Memorial Installation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Crashing Vor

    Thanks for the diary. It is important to always remember the casualties, living and dead.

    My husband is a Vietnam Vet and this Memorial day we will help set up the traveling Iraq/Afghanistan War Memorial in Santa Fe. I found a story about it on this blog, second piece down.

    The memorial lists all the war dead, as well as civilian casualties. It points out the human cost of empire, the human cost of war.

    ..... the Iraq/Afghanistan Memorial Installation, a series of three by six foot vinyl banners with the names, faces and brief biographies of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Memorial also includes information about civilian deaths in both countries. The installation, which currently consists of 95 banners containing nearly 4,500 names, is now 600 feet long and is growing every month. In the last five years our group of volunteers has installed the Memorial at dozens of locations in northern New Mexico.....

  •  Come home safely (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CalNM, Crashing Vor, codylyon

    Memorial Day 2002, 3, 4, 5, ...

    We walked over to Sunnyside Cemetery on Sunday afternoon.  We pulled a few stray bits of weeds and grass and put some flowers on Kathy's father's grave next to the headstone that so briefly mentions World War II.

    We thought back to a few months ago when we were at Normandy trying to imagine that June morning in 1944 when he had first visited France. Where had he landed? How could this now beautiful countryside have been so bloodied? He came home safely.

    My father had been in North Africa as the tide of battle on that continent ebbed and flowed, finally shifting in our direction. He too came home safely.

    I wore the baggy greens on the far side of the Pacific some years ago.

    We scattered our sons and a daughter in the navy, army, and air force. They all came home safely.

    And so as we sat there on that quiet and peaceful hillside I wished we could bring everyone home safely and never send them away to fight for pretended, or real, causes again.

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