Memorial Day: Sun Mixed with Rain

Robert J. Pohlmann at Wedding


My father at my wedding

Robert J. Pohlmann
November 1, 1987

Each year, around Memorial Day, I remember my father with love, grief, and a touch of anger.

Dad served his country in Korea and later in Vietnam, Thailand, oh and in Cambodia (but shh! U.S. military was not there). My grief renews when I think of memories my sons will never make with their grandfather. I encourage them to write a letter to him.  Spencer was six-years-old and he does have a few memories.  Alexander was not quite two and he has no memory of grandpa.  And I miss his dimpled smile…every single day!

And I remember with a touch of anger. Why? My father was a causality of war.  His death certificate says otherwise. Truthfully, a part of him died during the years he served in Southeast Asia. Another part died when he came back.  He died a little more when he retired from active duty.  Civilian life did not work well for my dad.  He felt most comfortable on an Air Force Base with rules and expectations and a continued sense of service to country.  So he joined Civil Service.

Though he would go on for years pretending everything was okay, it wasn’t. Not for him.  Not for any soldier who witnesses horrors of war first hand.

After returning from Thailand circa 1970 amid anti-war protests, Dad remained silent about war and his country. Always a patriot, he died a little watching evening news reports. More soldiers died.  More people protested.  Over 25 years passed before Dad officially died.  Cause? Cancer.

My father as a young airman in Korea

Airman Robert J. Pohlmann (circa 1950)

This Memorial Day Weekend, I invite you to remember those who died on battlegrounds around the world and those who died with battlegrounds raging in their heads. Remember those who came home broken until one day it all ended.

Let’s work to improve veteran medical care in this country and break down the war on mental health by releasing stigma around open, honest discussions.

Let’s remember those left behind and support those who help survivors heal.

And please join me in a moment of silence to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all. ~ Bill Clinton



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