We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother”
Henry V — Act IV, Scene iii
William Shakespeare, 1599
This is one of the few phrases from Shakespeare that I remember, and one that is ideally suited for this, or any, Memorial Day, even if it was written over 400 years ago. But in thinking about this today, as I sat watching the Memorial Day Concert in front of the Capitol Dome, I realized that looking at all other veterans as my brothers and sisters is only a part of what this means.
It also means that every war widow or widower, from any war, has about twenty million brothers and sisters-in-law. Their wife or husband died. My brother or sister died, too.
Every little boy and girl whose Daddy or Mommy never came home from Iraq, Afghanistan or whatever other hellhole the government sent them to, has twenty million aunts and uncles. Their Dad or Mom was also my brother or sister who died. And my children, and the children of every one of my brothers and sisters, are their cousins.
Ever mother and father who lost a child, and no matter how old the veteran was when they died in combat mothers and fathers still think of them as children, has twenty million step-sons and step-daughters. Their child died, but when they died, they had twenty million brothers and sisters, so the parents of the fallen vet have millions of step-children.
Every veteran has an unimaginably large family. Like all families, not everyone gets along. But like ordinary families, too, when there is trouble, this huge family pulls together and deals with it as best we can.
My brothers and sisters, we need to seek out our family members who don’t realize that there is more help available to them than they might realize. There are more people that really do understand than they could imagine. Not “professionals”, just family. We vets can make a difference in so many lives. When we were in the service, whichever one it was, we watched each other’s back. Now, we can watch the backs of the rest of the family, the sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, the aunts and uncles, the nephews and nieces, the step-mothers and step-fathers if they need us.
Just a thought that came to me as I watched our wounded warriors receive a small portion of the honor, help, support and love they are due from their very extended family.