Many people use the term "celebrate" in connection with Memorial Day. I prefer the term "commemorate". I'm not saying that we shouldn't enjoy the family barbecues, the Indy 500, and whatever your personal traditions include. But over the course of the three day weekend, I hope you will have the kind of moment I had yesterday.
I was watching the lead up to the Indy 500, which includes quite a bit of emphasis on the men and women who served and died for America. As part of the presentation, "Taps" was played. I had to leave the room, I was so stricken with sudden grief. I was grieving my uncle, Ray Holbrook, who was killed in World War II. I was grieving my great uncle, John Calvin Starr, who died of an illness in the Civil War. I was grieving my great uncle, Michael Hetrick, who died as a prisoner of war in the Civil War. I was grieving the changed lives of so many relatives, who came back from their wars forever changed, some in body and some in mind. And I was grieving for the men and the families I will never know, who are always and forever more directly impacted than I am.
I'm sure the families of the men who didn't come back from World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflicts still think, now and then or every day, of what might have been. For instance, I know that Uncle Ray had hopes of marrying Dorothy (last name unknown) when he returned from the war. What would that family, or another, have been like? What kind of cousins would I have had? What would it have been like to have had a strong family leader to help with some of the problems that every family had?
I mourn the loss of Ray and of every soldier, but one way to honor them is to keep their memories alive. Researching their lives, telling their stories, and resolving that "they did not live in vain" is important to that purpose.
In a little while, I'll be going to our local cemetery and placing flags at the plots of my father, my husband's father, his two grandfathers, and his grand uncle, all veterans. By the end of the day, there will be many flags at this small cemetery. Each represents an early death, or a changed life, to help keep America free. I encourage you to visit a cemetery, and view the flags, and think of the story that flag at that grave site represents. It is because of those servicemen and women that we live in such a wonderful country.