Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Thoughts on Memorial Day

It's here!  Another Memorial Day weekend that signals the 'unofficial' start of summer.  Yes, we have to wait until June 21st for the official arrival, but this weekend, as with every year in the past, we get an extra day off from work, we get to enjoy great food cooked on the grill, enjoy a few adult beverages while watching two of motorsport's premier events, and many will enjoy time with their families simply relaxing.  Many will have the opportunity to do those things.  Others, though......the ones whose actions and service to this country....who volunteer to be where they are at present......will not even see their family.  Think about that one word for a second - volunteer.  It's been many years since our country drafted a person into military service.  The men and women of the Armed Forces are, presently, all volunteers.  Amazing when you actually think about where they are currently and what they are doing.

In May of 1868, in a move designed toward reconciliation of our country, Gen John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, officially proclaimed the first Memorial Day when flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.  If you've never been to this hallowed ground of our incredible country, I recommend highly that you consider making the effort to visit.  To walk through the 'Fields of Stone' that so ceremoniously pay honor and tribute to lives given to protect our freedoms.  The headstones are perfectly aligned in formation, their simplistic beauty paying homage to people we may or may not have known, though their sacrifice was unimagineable.  These are fathers, uncles, brothers, sisters, aunts of someone.....and they gave their lives....for us.  Imagine.  As you sit, watching over the Tomb of the Unknowns, the members of the 3rd United States Infantry (The Old Guard) pass with precision 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  They never leave their post and the Tomb has been guarded every minute of every day since 1937.  The most inclement weather will not make them abandon their posts as they feel the soldiers buried within deserve their very best.  Think about that.  If they can show the remains of an unkown soldier that kind of tribute, why would we not offer a simple, "Thank you," when we see a man or woman in uniform.  Honestly, I believe most of us do.  I am thankful we did not live in a time (as many still remember) where soldiers returning from a place called Vietnam had to endure the horrific treatment of rebellious citizens.  They were called unspeakable names and were literally spat upon by people who had the right to do so...all because these soldiers had been to this foreign country.

They deserve our honor and our thanks.  They deserve our appreciation.  The families of fallen military personnel are owed a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.  It matters not if they were Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines.  It matters not to which battlefield they were called.  None of us reading this right now can even comprehend the possibility that we might be in a foreign country, void of any contact with friends or family, and our last breaths might come as we lie dying in the arms of a fellow soldier.  We have yet to give them enough, either in way of praise or pension.  I have had the opportunity to vist many VA Hospitals and Sharon worked there.  The fact that these men and women, upon entering these hospitals, are given a container of body wash (only) is a travesty.  They are given no deodorant, no toothbrushes or toothpaste, no razors or shaving creme.  These men and women, if called to duty in a war, were asked to give their lives if necessary...and the did it willingly.  We cannot even give them the essentials that we all take for granted.  What an incredibly sad commentary on our country's treatment of veterans.  Perhaps that, "Thank you," seems a lot more important and meaningful, huh?

Thank a veteran, please.  Thank their families.  Tonight, walk outside in the darkness and imagine being thousands of miles away.  Imagine having to sleep in the dusty, dirty hole you've carved out of the ground.  Imagine not being able to walk inside and hug your wife and kids.  Imagine that, instead of waiting for your newly-graduated son or daughter to come home from their date on time, you're praying they don't come home in a flag-draped casket.  They deserve more than our thanks.  They deserve our undying gratitude for doing what many of us cannot imagine.  I think the best way to sum up the true feelings of Memorial Day were immortalized in a poem by Moina Michael in 1915, that said, "We cherish too, the poppy red....that grows on fields where valor led....It seems to signal to the skies....That blood of heroes never dies."  These are the heroes of our time....and they should be memorialized at the beginning of every summer, last Monday in May.

Until next time......

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