Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Flying at half-staff

Yesterday, I heard on my local public radio station that Governor Tim Pawlenty was going to attend the funeral of a young man who was killed recently in Afghanistan. This must be one of the saddest duties of a Governor, a President and other elected officials. Governor Pawlenty ordered all state flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of this fallen soldier. That is such a visible reminder to us- a military death has occurred or the death of a very important person. What could we do to honor the fallen due to gun violence in our states? They are sometimes military people since we have heard a lot lately about suicides among veterans, many of them committed with guns. But flying flags at half-staff is certainly not an option.

I love my country. I love my state. I love the city where I live very much. I don't love war, but respect the military people who put their lives on the line for the ideals of our own country. I am not a pacifist, knowing that there are some just wars. I protested during the Vietnam War while my brother was there, having been drafted out of college. He missed my wedding and came home with Malaria. He also came home with PTSD which was not diagnosed until 3 years ago after his long battle with depression, panic attacks and alcoholism. Now he has been diagnosed with Parkinsons' Disease, just as he was getting his life back.

My Dad was a World War II veteran. He fought in North Africa and Italy. He never talked about the horrors but looking back now, my brother and I realize that he suffered from panic attacks and a skin disease related to stress. My parents didn't mention it. Long after his death, in the process of selling the family home, I came across some papers and writings from my Dad's war experiences. Little had I known how awful the battle of Anzio was until I saw it for myself on Ken Burns' documentary series about World War II. My Dad didn't mention that the soldiers who landed on the beaches of Anzio, much like those who landed at Normandy, were literally sitting ducks. He didn't mention the long time spent in the winter months of the Italian hills, camping in the snow and cold. I have now visited the beaches of Normandy and the hilly areas of Italy and have had a chance to see for myself the areas where my Dad fought and where the brave soldiers at Normandy fought and died. It was sobering, for sure. At the American Cemetery in Normandy, above Omaha Beach, we laid a rose at the cross of a Minnesota soldier. There weren't many dry eyes among the tour group after they found a name on one of the thousands of crosses there and laid a rose at it's base.

The first time I visited the World War II Memorial on the Washington Mall, I cried for my Dad at the section devoted to the North Africa/Italy front. The 34th Red Bull Infantry Division still exists as a Minnesota National Guard division and has sent soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan. When visiting the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C., I found the name of a friend, an airman, who went missing in action 6 months after his marriage to my good friend and his deployment. His body was never found. For years my friend waited and finally had her husband declared "legally dead". She married again and her life goes on, never quite the same. Just last night, while walking on the Lakewalk in Duluth, I saw his name on the Vietnam memorial tucked into a secluded area along the Lakewalk.

Coincidentally, also tucked into a secluded area above the Lakewalk in Duluth is a memorial to Minnesota victims of gun violence. The bell at the garden is the photo on my blog. It is rung occasionally to honor those who have died. It is certainly not as visible as a flag flown at half-staff, but it is a place where people can go to think about a loved one. I just read about another such memorial to victims of homicide, in an article on boston.com. Putting names of victims on rocks is powerful. It appears that The Garden of Peace in Boston is little known to the public, however, as is the Memorial Bell Garden in Duluth.

My family has suffered from the after affects of military conflict and also from gun violence. It never goes away. We live our lives around the hole created by our pain and loss. My brother tries to be brave and lives his life with a disease racked body and his awful memories. The war in Iraq revived those long suppressed memories and he finally got the help he much needed. So today, we continue flying flags at half mast for our fallen military. I honor them. But in order to honor the fallen citizens here at home, we should do more to remind the public of lives lost in our communities to bullets. There are more of those victims than the military killed in all of our wars if you total it all up. I know you've seen the visual above in my blog but it is now updated to include current data. You can find this visual along with other facts about gun injuries and deaths here.  Sad, but true.

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