Memorial Day 2006
Memorial Day is usually a tough one for me. I think it is related to "survivor syndrom". At least that is something that seems possible as I reflect on hearing and reading two first-person accounts of escaping death in civilian life.
My first concept of remembering those who sacrificed it all for our Nation versus those who survive came in my early teenage years, as my Family was visiting Arlington National Cemetery. My Father decided to seek out the grave of a very good friend from his High School years. At first, he wondered if it would be possible to find the exact headstone in the vast sea of markers at the cemetery. With the help of the Visitor Center, it turned out to be incredibly easy. We were there within minutes. And my Dad was hiding his tears as he read the name on the tombstone. Seeing my Father cry made quite an impact on me, because it was an extreme rarity. His only words were to the fact that had that been him and not his friend buried at Arlington, he would not be a Father of two boys. The concept of the fragile nature of life, and the arbitrary nature of death was born in my mind, only to be fleshed out later.
The event with the most impact for my own personal survival, naturally for those of my generation, was Vietnam. Friends left for the war. Some did not come back. Some did, but were changed profoundly. I wanted to avoid rolling the dice on my own mortality, and did whatever I could short of moving out of the country or marching with Joan Baez, to stay at home in the good ole' U. S. A. I succeeded.
Since then, I have become a Father. I am not sure my daughters understand that their conception might not have happened if my "fortunes of war" were different, just like my conception was due to events of a generation earlier. One of my daughters, however, did travel to "The Wall" in DC, and found the name of my own High School buddy, and made a rubbing of his name. Maybe she somehow knows.
This is all related to the tough issue. Memorial Day was designated, by Abraham Lincoln if memory serves, to simply remember and thank those who gave it all for our Nation. It was not intended as a vehicle to make some political statement as to the virtues of war. And it certainly was not intended as a Holiday to begin the summer season. But maybe all of that is somehow OK anyway.
The gift we all enjoy, the freedom to camp at our favorite site, boat on our favorite lake, hike in our favorite forest, barbeque our favorite recipe, or verbally blather on about our favorite point-of-view on our Nation, is due in large measure to those veterans who fought the valient fight to keep those freedoms alive. So, just for a moment, regardless of what we think or what we do, it is "altogether fitting and proper", to borrow Abe's own words, for us to pause and mentally give thanks to those gave "the last full measure of devotion.
So to all who died for us and our Nation, thank you, each of you, one and all. Somehow, I believe that each of you know how thankful so many of us are. May our Nation continue to flourish, and continue to provide freedoms for many.