Memorial Day 2010
Every year around this time he'd go to the cemetery to plant flowers next to the grave stones in the family plot. It was just something you did out of respect, a sense of duty felt, and in hopes that others would remember. It's not the only time he visited the family plot but at this time of year it was the time to see the graveyard full of fresh flowers, to see that the dead hadn't been forgotten. Not all the graves were decorated and he wondered if those there interred had been forgotten or if their families had died out or if all their offspring had migrated too far away to return just to decorate a grave.
He remembered going to visit the cemetery in the early 1950's with his aunt Nellie. In those days she called it Decoration Day. She always hoped that the lilacs would be at a their peak so that she could pick a couple huge bouquets to place in front of her father's tombstone. If not, she'd pick a bunch of flowers from her flower beds; tulips, irises, what ever was in bloom those last days of May.
She would explain to him with a certain pride as well as matter-of-factness that her father, his great grandfather, had served in the GAR and had fought in the Civil War. That that was why they decorated the graves every year; to remember the soldiers who had died in the service of their country in times of war. Even though JNL hadn't died in that war, in time it became tradition to remember any and all military veterans who had offered up their young lives in service of the USA. In those days his great grandfather was the only veteran laid to rest in that plot.
Today Doctor Lambed Kroner was decorating the plot that held not only his Civil War veteran great grandfather but also his Uncle Ed who served in WWI and his own father, a veteran of WWII. Just across the lane were the graves of his cousins who had fought in the Korean conflict. There were some years when he would decorate their graves too; if their grand children were too busy or perhaps just forgot.
Lambed wasn't really a doctor, but when he served his country as a Fleet Marine Corpsman during the Vietnam "war", he had been called "Doc" by his Marine Corps compatriots. Returning home from the battlefield there was no grand welcome from his fellow Americans that was usually afforded returning American warriors of previous wars and conflicts. No, his service and sacrifices were recognized with disdain. Of course his family was happy for his return and others from his hometown, who had also served, had extended that regard for their shared experience. He was welcomed and encouraged to join the local VFW and American Legion. But nationwide there was clearly an un-appreciation for members of the US military. And so , "Doc" moved on with his life and integrated himself into the mainstream, obtained an education, married, and fathered children. His Service to country was relegated to the far recesses of his memory and were not discussed except in the rarest of instances and then only with those who had shared the same service.
Why now, 45 years later, did "Doc" decide, on Memorial Day 2010, to try to remember his war service to his country? It has much to do with the changed American attitude toward Viet Nam veterans. He also feels that tradition in family and country are import and if the stories fail to get told then history will obscure what happened and we as a culture may lose a portion of our history. There is a feeling of obligation to educate his fellow Americans on what has happened to make this country the envy of the rest of the world. Nothing like America just happens by itself out of the ether. It came about because of the actions of it populace and we each are obligated to remember if we wish this great culture to endure.
"Doc's" memories are dimmed be infrequent recall and purposeful repressions. But the encouragement of his daughter who served with pride in the USMC during Gulf War I, his name sake son who served aboard the USS Carl Vincent during the same war and his youngest who demonstrated a reverence for service and history when he accompanied his dad to the cemeteries and battle shores of Normandy are the driving forces causing "Doc' to tell his story so that they will know and can pass it along.