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May 26th, 2008
01:00 PM ET

Observing Memorial Day- in the middle of a Baghdad ER

Editor's Note: CNN's Jill Dougherty spoke with Major Stephen Roberts, officer at the medical unit at Camp Liberty, Iraq (near Baghdad). Jill met him while filming a story on the soldiers who shaved their heads to raise money for children with cancer back home (watch). She shares her latest conversation with Major Roberts about Memorial Day here:

Jill Dougherty
U.S. Affairs Correspondent

At 3pm, Baghad time, the doctors, nurses and medics at Camp Liberty's medical clinic near Baghdad will pause, along with their fellow soldiers and U.S. citizens around the world, for a National Moment of Remembrance. But it comes right in the middle of sick call hours. With sick and wounded soldiers waiting for help, there's not a lot of time to spend in remembrance.

So Major Steven Roberts, MD, will call the clinic to attention, say a few words about the importance of Memorial Day. His staff will observe a moment of silence in honor of their fallen comrades - and then, back to work!

In his other life back in Washington, DC, Major Roberts is Attending Physician, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, providing treatment for children with cancer. Even at their young ages, they're in the fight for their lives and, here, his patients often are too.

Mayor Roberts says Memorial Day brings home not only the sacrifice of men and women for their country but the loneliness that all of them endure. "Thoughts of my family are constantly with me throughout my day," he says, "and missing them is a constant ache that never really stops. It can be hidden temporarily by busyness, but at the end of the day, that gnawing sensation is still there..."

Major Roberts says his thoughts aren't "profound." What he misses is the everyday happiness of being at home, with the people he loves. "Sleeping in a little later than normal (on a comfortable mattress without the sounds of gunfire or explosions in the distance) ; drinking a good, cold beer, etc. Simply put, holidays hurt."

He also loves the tradition of the backyard barbecue, what he calls "a uniquely American event."

"I tend to disagree with those who lament that Memorial Day seems to have degenerated into simply a three-day weekend of barbecuing," he writes. "Here is why: The soldiers we remember on this day died to protect the way of life of this country. I truly believe that if you could ask most of the servicemembers who can't participate because of their "ultimate sacrifice" most would say that they would want to spend the day together with family and good friends. In a sense, it is backyard barbecues, in as much as they represent something about the value of family and friends, that these men and women died to protect."

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Filed under: Memorial Day
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. MAJ Roberts' wife

    To all of our soldiers, their families, and most importantly to me my husband, please be assured of how proud we are of you back home. We live every day with amazing freedoms which are possible because of your efforts, bravery, and willingness to risk your lives for our incredible freedoms.

    Because of you, our children are able to run safely down the street and play outside. Because of you, our American people are able to speak passionately about what is on their hearts and minds. Because of you, our American people are free to express religious freedoms openly. Because of you, Americans are able to go to work and have jobs where they are able to focus on what is important to them personally. Because of you and your amazing abilities to watch over our country, we live. Because of you, every day we experience true freedom is seen as a gift.

    Thank you to all of our soldiers, past and present. In our home, you will always have a place of honor. To my husband, MAJ Roberts, and all those you are working with, you have our unending devotion, love, support, and prayers. Thank you for ALL that you do!

    May 26, 2008 at 9:17 pm |
  2. Cathy Lidbom

    ON THIS MEMORIAL DAY, A DAY TO REMEMBER "THOSE AMERICAN VETERANS" WHO DIED FIGHTING WARS PAST AND THE ONE WE
    ARE FIGHTING NOW! WE MUST REMEMBER ALL MEN AND WOMAN THAT HAVE SURVIVED WARS, COMING HOME TO LIVE EVERY DAY WITH THE AFTER-EFFECTS OF THE WAR THEY FOUGHT FOREVER IN THIER HEARTS AND MIND!
    FOR THOSE, WHO'S MINDS WERE FOREVER DERTROYED BY THE MEMORIES OF THE PEOPLE THEY HAD TO KILL, TO SURVIVE!
    THE CIVILIANS AND CHILDREN THAT GOT KILLED IN CROSS-FIRE AND SUICIDE BOMBERS! [THIS REMAINS AKWAYS IN THIER HEARTS]

    THIS IS A DAY TO PRAY FOR ALL THAT SURVIVED WITH THIER LIVES, BUT IN REALITY DIED [INSIDE] FROM THE INJURIES TO THIER BODY AND MIND ,FROM FIGHTING A WAR THEY WERE TOLD TO BELIEVE IN [IRAC TODAY]!

    THIS IS A DAY TO PRAY FOR ALL MEN AND WOMEN THAT FOUGHT ALL WARS, SO WE COULD LIVE WITH FREEDOM!

    THIS IS A DAY TO PRAY ESPECIALLY FOR THE MEN AND WOMAN THAT HAVE DIED OR LIVED IN THE HORROR THAT THIS WAR TODAY HAS BROUGHT TO US.

    THIS IS THE DAY TO HONOR ALL THE BRAVE MEN AND WOMAN FIGHTING THE WAR TODAY, THAT GIVES US FREEDOM!

    May 26, 2008 at 3:34 pm |
  3. L Daniel, Loganville, Ga.

    I would like to take this moment to thank all who have and is serving our country, was it not for your selfless act we would not have the opportunities we have today.

    May 26, 2008 at 1:22 pm |