Sunday, May 25, 2008

Remembering

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!

5 comments:

  1. Great tribute, Terry. I agree that we shouldn't need to be reminded to show respect and honor for those who serve our country. I've noticed this year, more than any other, the apathy demonstrated by a majority of the people in an audience when the flag is being presented. I had to remind a couple of teachers at the elementary school that when the national anthem is being played, it is a matter of respect to stop what you are doing and at the very least, be still. Last week, in an audience of at least 300 people, I could see only a handful of people saluting the flag as the ROTC posted the colors. I cried.

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  2. A powerful reminder, Liz. Thank you!

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  3. Going up military I can sure relate to your words: it was never hard to remember or to know what to do; you just did. I still find myself puzzled when someone seems so confused about patriotism and makes some political question. It's not.

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  4. Great posting, Terry. Thanks for filling in so ably.

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  5. Just this morning I hugged the flag that had been draped over my husband's casket. I thought of him telling of the shouts of joy midst tears flowing down the cheeks of over a hundred thousand prisoners of war as they watched the Nazi flag lowered in the little town of Mooseburg, Germany, and saw the American Flag raised. It was in late April, but Charles claimed thereafter that it was his real 4th of July.

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