Today I was thinking about the upcoming weekend and how many people are happy because they will have a three day weekend. I spent some time contemplating Memorial Day and wondering how many people actually pay respect to the war dead who paid the ultimate price to keep our freedom, our families, our friends, and even our dreams safe.
My daughter’s birthday falls on the 30th of May and when she was younger she questioned me about the date of her birth. “Mom, this is just not fair! You were born at New Year’s and everybody was happy. My dad was born just after Christmas and that was a wonderful gift to Grandma. Chris was born in time to celebrate Halloween at the same time and have neat costume parties. Kyle was born close to Valentine’s Day. I get a holiday that makes people think about dead people!” Her statement touched my heart.
Isn’t it a shame that we need a National holiday proclamation to get us to do what we should do on our own? The men and women who serve in the armed forces as well as those who have fallen while wearing the uniform of the armed forces should all have our honor and respect every day. Of course, most of us use this holiday not only to remember those who have given their lives in the line of duty but also everyone we have lost in the battles of life as well.
May seems to be a month for holidays that make us think. We have Mother’s Day, Armed Forces Day, and Memorial Day. When I stopped to think about that I decided they are all linked together and it’s only natural that they be celebrated in the same month. Mothers not only give birth to the sons and daughters that will later protect us by wearing a uniform, they also create the memories those soldiers wrap around them like a cloak to keep them warm when they feel cold and empty inside. On Armed Forces Day, all branches of the U.S. military are honored. Memorial Day ends the month by remembering those who have died while serving our country and those who once served our country even if they didn’t die during their time of service.
My family will end this month with a family barbecue to celebrate my daughter’s birthday and Memorial Day at the same time. We will enjoy the day together and we will take the time to thank a veteran or two for making it possible. Her father is a veteran of the Vietnam War and like a lot of other veterans he’ll probably be working while others take advantage of a reprieve from work. He’ll show up at some point on Memorial Day and we’ll thank him for serving his country, it’s the least we can do. He will nod, almost as if he feels guilty about accepting the gratitude, and proceed to enjoy the festivities. Then a while later someone will see him sitting off away from other people, his head tilted to watch a flag waving in the breeze, and if they look closely they might see a tear or two trickle from his eyes. When he thinks no one is watching he will salute the flag. He did not wear the uniform for glory or recognition; he wore it because he felt he owed his service to his country.
My own father was a veteran of WWII and I will surely be thinking of him and remembering what he often told me as I was growing up. “Forget about the television. Television is for people who don’t have anything to do. Too many people want to watch people on television instead of living.” Today we could replace the television with the computer and it would mean the same thing. Veterans, men and women who believed in freedom, died so that we could go anywhere we want to go, say anything we want to say, and wear anything we want to wear while living anywhere we want to live. The least we can do is to honor them by using the freedom they died to protect.
Thank you to every veteran who reads this and a very Happy 30th birthday to you, Crystal!
© Dianna Doles-Petry
May 27, 2010