Having served as a Corporal in the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Bryan Kirk reenlisted in the US Army shortly after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. After completing his service, he went on to brandish that which is said to be mightier than the sword. He wrote at a handful of community newspapers, including the The Houston Chronicle, where he wrote for over seven years. He now works as an editor at Patch, churning out coverage of Houston area news with the diligence and proficiency so often characteristic of veterans. Bryan is a loving husband, father, and grandfather, and we are very honored to share this interview with him:
As a veteran, what does Memorial Day signify to you?
It’s more than a long weekend to me. I reflect most days because being a member of the armed forces was important to me, and it still is. I had an uncle who was in Korea. My dad and so many of my uncles were in Vietnam. I served during Desert Storm, and my younger brother was in Afghanistan. For vets, its really a time of getting together, and sharing stories.
What are some ways you and other veterans commemorate?
Most of us just remember in our own way, really. Some get together with their fellow vets, and some just want to be left alone. It all depends on the vet, and his or her experiences in uniform. Some like the parades, some just like to be with family. There are some veteran organizations such as VFW and American Legion that host events. As for me, personally, I reflect on my own, and maybe call a few of the buddies I am still in contact with.
Can you tell me about a few of the people you remember this weekend?
Capt. Mike Vidusek was one. He was in my unit. I heard about his death on the news when his helicopter went down at sea. I had deployed with him a year earlier. He was such a great Marine and a top notch pilot. Of course, another was my dad, who died in 2006. He was a vet too, part of the 101st Airborne. He lost part of his leg to a landmine in 1965. When he came home he became a bit of recluse and shut down on many of his army buddies. He had a lot of guilt, though he never told me. He was the one I called when I was on orders to the Middle East. After that, he finally decided to reconnect in the early 90s with his buddies, and came to love those guys again. His depression and injuries finally caught up with him a few years later. But he was a hero to me.
I’ve heard some veterans express dismay that many celebrate Memorial Day in a way that might be seen as insensitive. How would you advise others to mark the day in a way that’s respectful?
It’s nice that there is a day for remembering the fallen, and there should be, but I wish civilians really understood. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with celebrating. It’s just not a “happy” time for vets, so if there is the urge to say, “Happy Memorial Day,” well, it’s just not polite. Civilians can celebrate as they please, as long as they understand there was an incredible cost.