I’m a sap. I admit it.
I’m patriotric to a fault. And, Memorial Day is particularly thought-provoking for me. When Mini-DD was but a boy, I would talk to him on Memorial Day to discuss the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day. Memorial Day is when we honor those who have died defending our freedoms and way of life. Veterans’ Day honors all those who have fought to defend, living or dead. Subtle, yet significant difference.
I learned the difference when I was 19. As hard as it is for me to admit, 25 years ago last Saturday, I graduated from high school (Geaux Spartans!). Growing up in Southwest Louisiana, we didn’t miss much fun. Our class was particularly great and in that summer of 1982, we set out to conquer the world. I went straight to work and prepared to be married in the fall. (Yes, I WAS that stupid.) We partied all summer and in September, had a hum-dinger of a party to send one of our best friends off into the Marine Corps.
He and I had been friends since 9th grade Algebra. I “liked” him, liked him but he was pretty shy and reserved and didn’t reciprocate, so after a short time we became good friends instead. We were in the same homeroom and we shared classes through the years. Virtually every weekend, our big group of friends “hung out” together and enivitably, he and I would end up paling around. He even set me up with his totally cute cousin for one particular party.
Of course, we were all gung ho and Semper Fi about our friend joining the Marines. At that time, joining the Marines was somewhat of a different tack for folks our age, but we thought it was honorable and cool. And we threw one hell of a going away party. Then, one short year later, this..
In the early morning hours of October 23rd, 1983, a lone driver in a yellow Mercedes drove 12,000 lbs. of explosives into the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Mercifully, my friend, Lex David Trahan, slept in his bunk only a few hundred yards from impact, so he likely didn’t even know what hit him. However, in the blink of an eye, he was gone. This only child, who was due to ship home five days later never made it home for his extensively planned welcome home party. A couple of days later a Marine Chaplain and Lex’s recruiter drove up to his parents’ home to deliver the devastating news. Two days after that, his trunk of belongings arrived at his parents home. He had sent them ahead of his departure from Lebanon, anticipating that he’d catch up to them in a few short days.
It was tragic and devastating. It was the first time I had really experienced sudden death of someone so young and full of life, and so close to me. I have never forgotten Lex. I tell my son about him every Memorial Day and some nice fall October days when the wind blows and the leaves start to change. And, I will never forget. Without getting political, when people ask if we should be in Iraq or if we are really in a war with terrorists, I generally just answer yes, without letting them know that Lex’s bright shining blue eyes are staring at me in my mind.
There are so many Lexs in our country’s history. Please take a little time this weekend to reflect on all of those young lives that have been lost to protect our way of life.
In honor of Memorial Day, here are a few songs to reflect upon. This one is likely my most favorite Ray Charles song of all.
My favorite version of the Star Spangled Banner
And….for Lex– We remember.