I’ve been celebrating Memorial Day for over half a century, but I only had a vague idea of what it is. Today I got curious and went to my two trusted friends, Google and Wikipedia, to find out. The American Memorial Day, the final Monday of May, remembers the men and women who died while serving their country. These people paid the ultimate price. Tragically, their footsteps are still being followed today. Over 2000 service people have been killed in the Afghanistan War. If I read correctly, more than double that amount have committed suicide. What is that saying? That war leads not only to death, but to despair?
I remember when I was a kid, our dad would walk us up to Lake View Cemetery near Volunteer Park in Seattle. We would then go to a smaller cemetery, which I just read on Goggle was a military cemetery, the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery.
I haven’t thought of this for years, but now I am picturing my dad standing at graves, reading the headstones and bowing his head in respect. He’d be jovial on the walk up to the cemetery, but melancholy on the way back home. What a wonderful role model he was, even in small ways. He taught us to honor the dead, not be afraid of them.
Yesterday at the grocery store, there was a table set up where you could leave items to donate to Armed Service people. I bought two packs of disposable razors. When I went up to the table to leave them, I saw at least two dozen lip balms. It wasn’t until I was home that I thought: What, our U.S. service people don’t have enough personal items? They are provided for so poorly or paid so little, that they can’t afford Q-tips? The Defense Budget is so huge, but the Armed Services personnel need to ask the public for donations? Even an English major can see that something is out of whack.
I sat down two hours ago to write something light and inspirational about Memorial Day. I was going to talk about my mother’s coleslaw and my dad’s bacon-wrapped hotdogs. But I didn’t want the day to go by without focusing on its meaning. Still, I am surprised at how dark my thoughts have become. Sometimes I think that we have come so far, but then I realize the world’s reality is not far removed from the biblical dictates of an “Eye for an eye”. Do we never learn from history that war’s brutality is dehumanizing?
But again, my intention today was not to come from a Peacenik perspective. You can’t sit back and let the bullies of the planet take over. And on Memorial Day, I want to honor those who protected me before and those who protect me now. That’s what is important. Our cousin, who served in Kuwait, introduced us to an organization, Children of Fallen Patriots, which seeks to help families of the heroes left behind. I am grateful we can add our assistance, and honor the men and women who gave their lives so we can live in safety…and barbecue this afternoon.