I attend the Montclair Memorial Day Ceremony every year. It’s always moving, whether it’s held indoors or at Edgemont Memorial Park. And this year included several especially interesting moments. The mayor’s son read a wonderful speech about honoring the sacrifices of our veterans by utilizing the rights and living up to the ideals they defended. Theresa Loong, whose film Every Day Is a Holiday premiered this month at the Montclair Film Festival, spoke about her father’s experiences as a prisoner-or-war in Japan. She encouraged the audience to remember and honor those who have served by collecting their stories. The final speaker was Thomas Sobers, a 90-year-old Veteran of World War II. His son said that Mr. Sobers has something to say about everything. And he had a lot to say on this Memorial Day. Mr. Sobers, a long-time Montclair resident now living in Florida, talked about those who are often overlooked on Memorial Day: the nurses, the Construction Battalions (SeaBees), the Merchant Marines. Without these people, some of whom suffered and died, the fighting troops would have been unable to function.
He also discussed honoring Veterans who return – especially those who return to us not sound in body and mind. We must honor them with proper attention and care. The Veterans Association Hospitals are not up to the challenge, he claimed.
I have to say, I appreciated Thomas Sobers’ raw language. His diction was not always politically correct, but he touched on the rape of nurses in wartime, the “skin and bones” condition of prisoners of war, and the current issues for Veterans when finding appropriate physical and mental healthcare. The realities of war are often glossed over with wreath-layings, talk of angels watching over us, parades, and other necessary coping mechanisms for our society and our returning – so it was refreshing to hear frustration and anger. Both of which should urge us to act. If our nation feels it can afford to send citizens to war, we must be willing to care for them when they return. Check out (most of) the speech here.
As I’ve talked about in past Memorial Day posts, consider checking out The Wounded Warrior Project, and don’t assume that the Veteran with the cap or the pin or the t-shirt has heard “Thank you for your service” today. You don’t have to agree with why we sent them to war to thank them for being willing to go.