Memorial Day

Who doesn't love a long Memorial Day weekend? It’s right around the corner and it is sure to be full of barbecue's and mini vacations away from home. Stores and online merchants will all post fantastic deals on spring and summer wares, informally ushering in the joys of having warmer weather coming in the next few months. It's a wonderful time that is all things Americana.

Unfortunately, Memorial Day is not all about sunshine and good times. It is a day that is so much more than that. On this day, we remember who died while in service to our country, and that is all. It is not to be confused with Veterans Day.

While most Veterans do appreciate the 'thank you for your service' sentiment that a lot of us receive on such a somber holiday, it's not what this day is for. It is so much more important than that.

This is a day to honor those, regardless of the politics or popularity of any war, who selflessly donned the military uniform and did what was asked by our country; and in that process lost their life. If we honor nothing else, we must as a country and community appropriately honor this.

Men and women have served this country for centuries, many never making it back home. Some sadly, never even had that chance to hold their child for the first time; children growing up without mothers or fathers, wives without husbands and vice-versa.

Lives are torn completely apart, because of what we (our country) asked of their loved ones.

Aside from the politics, these ladies and gentlemen raised their right hand and pledged themselves, knowing full well they could be hurt or worse yet killed in service to their country. They provided us with the ultimate sacrifice and we should (and will) honor them for that. This is their day; not Veterans Day; not Armed Forces Day; it’s Memorial Day. 

For those of us who personally knew these individuals for which Memorial Day was created, this day is especially difficult. While we do look forward every year to honoring the memories of the fallen we dread it equally as much, if not more. 

If we are brave enough to face it and can stand to swallow the lump in our throats long enough, we stand out there at the cemetery in our best attire: our clothes littered with buttons and pins and other memorial pieces like the red memorial poppy flower. 

Someone of significant importance may stand up in front of us speaking of our fallen, and inspiring and thoughtful words are of no shortage. For some time, they speak and when they’re done talking there is that long uncomfortable pause that we've been dreading. 

A group of riflemen off in the distance firing in unison breaks the silence, the sound cutting through the air and instantly sending shock waves right through the core of us; awakening some inner ball of dormant emotion. As two more volleys follow the first, the tears begin to well up in our eyes.

As the rifles fall silent the sound of Taps is eloquently bellowed out by the bugler, filling the air around us. And just as the sound envelopes us, memories we have of our fallen brothers and sisters come flooding back with fury like the waves pounding on the ocean beach.

We distinctly remember the faces of those with whom we served that are no longer standing to our left and right. And we remember all of the laughs, the friendships, the good times, and the bad. 

The tears flow freely now and we muster every bit of composure we have to not break down completely; the pain of those memories becoming almost unbearable.

For a moment, our memories and thoughts drift to the families that were left behind and that huge hole that's now in their lives. Some of us were also unfortunate enough to remember that look they had on their face when we came home and their loved one didn’t. 

And while we stand there giving a salute, still listening to 'Taps', rigid at the position of attention with our hand shaking; what started as grief now spirals into guilt. We inwardly question ourselves and the decisions before and during these events so many years ago that took the lives of our friends. And we wonder if maybe we had just done something different or had been there then maybe, just maybe our buddies would still be here with us today.

Please remember, this day is so much more than a long holiday weekend. Take time this Memorial Day, set aside your politics and your BBQ tongs for a little while and honor the sacrifices of these great men and women and comfort those who miss them most.

For information on how you can honor our fallen please contact your local veteran’s service organization or message me. 

This article was also published in the Monroe Monitor on 5/19/2015. 

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