A Letter on Memorial Day 5/27/2019

You are far from us now and away at a place that we don’t understand on this side of the world. I am not sure what the landscapes look like. I don’t know what the weather has in store for you today or what your plans will be.
I wanted to reach out to you and touch base. I figured since you are where you are, might as well write to you about the reasons why you went where you went.

The name of my town is called Wesley Hills. My road is slightly up the mountains in New York. I am not too far from the city but I am far enough that I can disconnect from all the static and buzzing of the fast-paced life.
It is springtime now, so all the trees have returned with color. The sky is blue this morning and as I write to you, the sun is communing up over the peak of Old Wesley Chapel, which is directly across from my home on a street known as Spook Rock.
The Chapel is an old Church that has been there since the early 1800’s. This place is a part of our history. There is a small cemetery on the side of the Chapel with headstones dating back to 1813. The people buried here were once a part of this town. They built this place, which to me is fascinating because I always wonder what my plot of land looked like back then.

I go here to visit sometimes because no one else does. I have offered my services to clean inside the Chapel but the Church Members never responded to me.
The place is old, that’s for sure. there is an outhouse on the side but no one uses this.
No one really uses the church either. It just sits like a piece of history, shelved like an old black and white photograph that is hardly noticed anymore.
I stop by and send my respects and offer a few prayers because I feel this place has spirit. Not bad or anything like that. I look at the old Chapel and think about the way our country was built.
I think about the words dignity and pride of ownership. There was a different work ethic back then. You could describe someone by the wealth of their word and not the wealth in their pockets back then.
Men are buried here. Women too. There is a young child buried here as well with the words “A bud on Earth to blossom in Heaven,” ever proving to me that loss is loss and life is life, no matter what era we come from.

We took a ride to a small town called Sugar Loaf yesterday. They closed one of the streets and held a spring festival, which was small, but still—the place was really nice.
Sugar Loaf appears to be a small town, mountainy, beautiful, and the kind of place where everybody knows your name and there is no such thing as strangers. I like it here.
I think you would too.

Behind my home are the mountains; the Colbus, the Catamount, Horse Stable, and Panther are the names. I hike here sometimes. I like up there because there is no interruption. There is only Mother Nature and a world that seems unmolested by man, which is breathtaking at sunrise.
Man, I swear, I have never seen a sunrise or sunset like the ones I’ve seen up here. Plus, add the campfire, add campfire food and campfire coffee, and campfire conversation and I’m sure you can understand the perfection of a time like this.
My town itself is mainly small. We have a little strip in the main part of town itself with shops and stores and restaurants.  The Thai place is good. There is a Mexican place and the food is phenomenal. When we feel the need for a good smokey BBQ place, we go over to this spot over on Rt. 59.
Mainly though, we keep to ourselves and our little plot of land.

My home is something I have always dreamed about. I think the idea of where I’ve always wanted to live came to me when I was reading a book that was written by Robert Fulghum.
He described where he lived, which was away in the country. He talked about his cottage. I thought of this and saw myself in a place like that, away from the distractions, writing, and doing what I love most.

We moved away from the overpopulated world to have more land and less interference. The streets are mostly quiet. We live in a hilly part of town, which is great for long walks, especially now when the weather is kind and the wind gives a generous feel as the sun beats down upon my face.

The homes are nice, country-like, and spread far enough apart that the neighbors do not impose. I love it here.
I love the little pond that is up the street from me. I go here a lot. I sit at the edge and fish for a while. I don’t catch anything big and I throw everything back but it’s a good place to take a breath and create a distraction from my everyday living.

There is a red-tailed hawk that flies over my home. I never see him flap his wings (if it is a “him” that is.) No, the hawk just circles around in the sky, wings stretched out, turning in big sweeps and soaring above us.
We have brown eagles too. I saw one of them up close once. The eagle swooped down when I was taking groceries from the back of my car. The big bird flew down and swept past me. The bird looked at me, curiously, and the swept upwards without even flapping its wings. I think this was one of the best things I’ve ever seen in my life, which is part of why I love my little spot in this mountainy town.

My home itself is built on a hill. The property slopes downwards toward old Haverstraw Road behind my plot. I have side property as well, which is wooded. My shed is here. We have well water. We have a semi-circular driveway. We have tall pines around us—oh, and a large owl lives in one of the trees near my home.
I know this because at late night, I can hear the big barn owl with its hoot-hooting from the trees. I see deer. I see fox. I see the coyotes, which not everyone seems to appreciate but as I see it; I live up in the woods. This was their home before it was mine.

Home . . .
There’s that word. This is my home. This is all that I have. This is my corner of the world and yet, there you are, far away from your home and fighting for us to have what we have.
I wanted to send this message to you with a description of my place so that you might have a feel for what it looks like.
I wanted you to have a picture in your mind which is different from where you are now.
I wanted you to know what you are fighting for and that me and my family will always be here for you.
I wanted you to know that my door is open. We have a dining room table and there is always a place for you here.
I wish you could come and we could feed you because there is no better way to show love or say thanks than to feed someone. And son, we would put a big feedbag on you here. You would be at home here so help me God.

I don’t know where you are now. I know that your dog tags were sent home and your name is commemorated. I know that you are honored by your troops and friends and family. I know today that we honor the fallen.

I hope this message finds you and that it finds you well and brings you comfort. I hope that my intention is fulfilled and that wherever you are, Soldier, with all my heart, I hope that you accept my deepest and honest regret that I never had the chance to thank you in person.

There is no amount of words I can say that would make sense of war or its casualties. There is nothing I could write or say that would soften the blow of such a loss. Nothing can fix the broken loss of family and life. I know this; however, if I may, please allow me to extend to you my most humble regard and say thank you and welcome home.

Thank you for all you have done. I have my home because of you. I am inspired by you. It was only fate that placed you where you are now; otherwise, I like to imagine you pulling up to my home with your family and wondering if the description in my letters matched your imagination of what my home must look like. I like to think of you dressed like a civilian, smiling and coming out with your child in your arms. a smile on your face and a dish made by your wife, wrapped up and to be enjoyed as we barbecue together.

The first time I wrote to you was back when I lived in my old hometown of East Meadow. I described a walk we took with my little girl near the Korean War monument at Eisenhower Park. I told you about me. You told me about you. I wish those messages kept going but fate had different plans for you Marine.

And Erik, just so you know, I kept my word. I still write. I still try to help out. I was involved with a group and I answered phone calls of soldiers that came home and struggled with suicidal ideation.
I heard from a mom a short while after. She told me her son was doing well and his life turned around. Naturally, I thought of you . . .

You are far away in a land where I cannot go or reach you. But Stand down, Marine. Your fight is over and now with all my heart, my wish for you is to rest in peace

United We Stand


Sleep well, my friend.

Benny—

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