by Terry Deighton, sitting in for Liz Adair
Tomorrow is Memorial Day.
It’s a time to remember those who have gone ahead, especially those who fought and died to protect our freedom. Remembering has never been my strong suit. I have trouble remembering what day it is, how old I am, even where I’m going when I’m driving down the street. I’d like to blame it on getting older, but I’ve always been this way.
When I was about thirteen, my brother stopped by the booth where I was selling candy at the Fourth of July and told me that he was going home with a friend. He asked me to tell our parents where he’d be. He wanted us to pick him up when we headed home.
When my parents met me to go home a couple of hours later, my brother didn’t show up at the appointed time and place. We were all very worried. We looked all over the booths and carnival rides. Finally, we headed for home, five miles away, to see if he had gotten there on his own somehow. Half way home, the memory of talking to my brother popped back into my head. I gasped and confessed my error, and we headed back into town to pick up my brother exactly where he had said he would be.
However, as bad as my memory is, I have no trouble remembering our fallen patriots. That same little town that hosted the Fourth of July celebrations of my youth sits along the same harbor as a U.S. Naval base. My dad retired from the navy after twenty years. Patriotism and honor for our veterans, living and dead, runs in my veins.
In my little Navy town, everyone stood when the flag went by. No one had to think about whether or not to salute it. Every hand automatically rose to every heart as the flag entered the peripheral vision of the crowd and stayed there until it exited the other side of our view. It didn’t matter how many flags were in the parade, either. Each was respected and honored. The men in the throng had fought in World War II, Korea, and, in my teen years, in Vietnam. They had lost friends, and some of the women had lost their husbands. The remembrance was personal for these folks.
It makes me sad to see the bumper stickers and signs that tell us to “Support our Troops.” We shouldn’t need to be told. It should be as automatic as saluting the flag they represent. Even if we do not agree with the politics that direct our armed services, we must support and honor the men and women who comprise our fighting force. Each has his or her private reasons for joining the military, but each also wears the uniform that requires a willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country. That willingness demands our respect. We must give today’s soldier, sailor, and marine the same respect that was given to the veterans of other eras. If we do not, how can we expect them to be there for us in our hour of need?
Let’s take a few minutes tomorrow to remember amidst our barbecues and yard work. Let’s remember the men and women who stand ready to defend our right to spend our day off any way we choose. Let’s remember that freedom has a cost and be grateful for those who are willing to pay it.
Happy Memorial Day!