Pondering the Meaning –Zachary Ruesch


I have been pondering Memorial Day in silence for some time. My thoughts have often wandered to the meaning and people impacted by this day. In the class I taught last spring, we learned about the experiences of September 11, 2001, and the wars fought in Afghanistan and Iraq as a result. As well, another class in my school focused upon the often unsavory memory of the Vietnam War. And, further heightening my awareness of this learning and the day, are those collective and yet, personal experiences of military service, especially combat and the sacrifices so many have given.

Altogether, I have been reminded and moved.

I have done nothing in comparison to those who have given their blood, breath, and life. I may strive to achieve and be deserving of the sacrifice, but my own life will always and forever pale in comparison. The last many days have been a reminder of this. In class as I teach, in the car as I drive, as I lay down to find sleep and wake again, lucky to begin my life anew, I observe and ponder my children, and as my life moves to and fro with ebb and flow, the feeling and knowledge finds me. It is of course with mixed heart and mind I am touched, simultaneously celebrating and regretting the lives lost. A question of necessity burns bright, and hot.

The voice of “thanks” means naught without equal truth in action.

The sacrifice must not be in vain. With each hurtful remark, detrimental decision, and agitating action, the purpose is slowly eroded. We are imperfect, and forever we will be. Yet, we must seek to be the best of ourselves and us.

The knowledge causes tightness of lung, choked throat, burning eye, and a pained rhythmic beating of the apparatus sustaining life. I vow to live this life with with purpose, defined by me, but with meaning and impact. If for no other reason, in their memory and honor.


My name is Zachary Ruesch, and I am a combat veteran. It is my desire is to share perspective with the hope of helping others accept, adjust, and accomplish. I served in the Wisconsin Army National Guard as a combat engineer for seven years, achieving the rank of sergeant. My unit (951st Engineer Company – Sapper) was based out of Rhinelander and Tomahawk and I volunteered to join this unit for a combat deployment. Our unit served in Afghanistan (2009) conducting route clearance missions, literally throughout that nation: Paktika, Ghazni, Zabul, Kandahar, Kabul, Logar, and Wardak. After the deployment, I returned home and achieved degrees from UW-Stevens Point: History and Broadfield Social Science (Education). Since leaving the military and graduating, I have been privileged to teach in a number of school districts, corrupting future generations.

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