When I was kid Memorial Day was always a long weekend to look forward to. A trip to the lake to open the camp for the summer, parades and cookouts. While the meaning of the day was known, it didn’t really resonate in the mind of a child.
As an adult, Memorial Day takes on its true significance. While I have never had the honor to serve my country, I have the utmost respect for those who have and understand that today is about remembering those who have served and paid the ultimate sacrifice, whether in combat or years later as a result of their service.
A friend of mine, who is a veteran, posted a very heartfelt comment on his Facebook timeline this morning that sums up the day well. He said that today is not a “Thank you for your service day.” Rather, he contends, “It’s a day of remembrance and mourning.” As I think back on all the years of parades and taps being played at the local cemetery, I understand and appreciate his words.
I know veterans of almost all the conflicts from World War II to the present. I know veterans who have survived and veterans who have not. I know veterans who have died decades later from disease caused by combat exposure. I know veteran’s who survived the Allied invasion of Europe and I know their children, in some cases named after their friend and brother in arms, who died beside them in what could only have seemed like hell on earth.
My Dad was a humble member of the greatest generation and a veteran of WW II. He served in the Pacific theatre with the US Army Air Corp, though he did not see direct combat. I have aunts and uncles who served in that same war, as well as the Korean War. I have cousins and nephews who are veterans and actively serving. My father-in-law and his father before him, are career US Army officers, serving in WW II and the Vietnam War. the legacy of service is strong on all sides of my family and I am grateful to each and every one of them, as well as to all veterans, who served to defend this great nation and all that it stands for.
I also can’t help but think how disheartened many of them must be with the current state of affairs in these United States of America. I am not piling on to the popular political narrative, rather I am talking about the deep divides that dig at the very soul of our country. After all that these brave veterans have fought for, I will never understand how it is acceptable to attack one another, physically or verbally, the way it is today. The only comment I will make about politics, is my disgust with both parties, at how they put party and personal gain ahead of what is best for the people that elected them. On this Memorial Day, I hope all of our elected officials will take pause and consider what these veterans, whom we have lost, would think of their actions and their rhetoric, when contrasted with these veterans service and sacrifice to the ideals of this great nation.
Today, I think about all of them with my most humble gratitude and respect. The pride I feel for those I know who have served, is not easily communicated in words. My sense of loss for those who are no longer with us is felt most for my family members, though not without equal compassion for those who are mourning their own losses today.
So as my friend closed his post today, “Either way stop and take a moment to remember the men and women that gave their lives so you could enjoy yours.”