He talked about his men, his friends, who were fighting and dying as well. And what were they fighting for? They were fighting so that a bunch of people they didn’t even know could live their lives without being oppressed by a government that prohibited freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom to think, freedom to disagree and the freedom to pursue life, liberty and their own happiness. They were fighting a government that had imprisoned and killed thousands of its own citizens because those citizens weren’t thinking, saying or doing what the communist powers dictated that they should be thinking, saying and doing. He stood shoulder to shoulder with men who died in that fight.
He talked about the sweet Korean boy that used to risk his life every day to bring sandwiches up to the battle lines to sell to the soldiers. He talked about the young radio man that went out each night to repair communication lines that had been destroyed in that day’s fighting. He said those two were the bravest people he’d ever known. The radio man was killed by sniper fire one night. He didn’t know what happened to boy with the sandwiches.
There are times in life when there is a great deal of loss. Many have lost loved ones this past year or so to illness, accident or age. Losing them is sad. But what is even more sad, and what will cause us even more sorrow is if we lose the ideas, knowledge and beliefs that made them the people that they were.
Previous generations had a sense of self reliance and independence that was very powerful. They had a sense of personal responsibility and they were inclined to work hard to improve and build their lives rather than whining, worrying and waiting for someone else to solve their problems. They also had a connection to nature and to the earth’s abundance. They grew gardens. They hunted and raised animals for food and clothing. They also understood the use of medicinal plants.
Those plants were part of their daily life. I was recently in Belize and was amazed at how connected the people I encountered there still are to the medicinal and edible plants that surround them. I was pleased to see that the current generation is as connected to that knowledge as previous generations have been.
I celebrate much of the progress that’s been made in our world in the past few generations. I really do. In many ways our lives and health are vastly better than the lives of our ancestors. But in many ways they are not. It’s clear that we are losing some critical knowledge on a number of topics. One of those topics is medicinal plants.
I’ve had an insanely busy life. My wife and I raised 15 kids and ran several businesses for most of those years. In spite of how busy I already was running a one-man veterinary practice and an online Irish flute store and serving as CEO of a non-profit organization that supported an orphanage in Haiti (be careful with that sort of thing by the way…that’s how you end up with 15 kids), I suddenly had a very strong feeling that I needed to start teaching people about herbal medicine. I felt like I needed to play a part in preserving that knowledge that was being diminished in this world each time some sweet old timer passed into the next one. I felt like if our generation dropped the ball and let that knowledge go, it would be gone forever.
So, I sold the online flute store to a nice man in Colorado. I passed the torch of the orphanage work to a nice lady in Washington DC. I continued with the vet practice because it was a tremendous laboratory for learning what could really be done with plants (and I liked paying my mortgage). I started doing a lot of lecturing and teaching. Then I wrote a little book. Eventually I got roped into creating the HomeGrown Herbalist School of Botanical Medicine and starting an herb supplement company so that folks could get what they needed.
Most days I feel like not enough butter spread over too much toast. My tactic for solving that problem has been to try to recruit some help with the job by focusing my evangelical zeal about herbs into youtube videos, blog articles, plant walks and classes so that other folks can learn this stuff and take up the torch. The HomeGrown Herbalist School is about a tenth of the price of programs offering similar amounts of material. And why on Earth am I working that hard and then selling the school for a tenth of the price it’s worth? Simple. It’s because I’d rather make ten herbalists than one.
I hope that on this memorial day we’ll all take a little time to remember those we love. I hope that we’ll remember the lessons we learned and the good times we had. I hope that we’ll remember the good and forgive the bad in folks that have passed (or that are still here). I hope that we’ll cherish the knowledge they had and shared and that we’ll pass that knowledge to the next generation as well. I hope that we can succeed in helping our children and grandchildren to know what a treasure it can be to understand some of the important things that our grandmas and grandpas understood.
God bless you all today. May He give you comfort and peace as you lovingly reflect on those that have gone home to Him. May He give you the courage and strength to take up the good banners that they often carried. And, if you pull any weeds at the cemetery today, take them home and make some medicine. Grandma and grandpa would have liked that.