Friday, May 27, 2016

Keeping the Memorial in Memorial Day

Thought for the day: The willingness with which our young people serve our country shall be directly proportional to the way they perceive our nation and how it treats our veterans. [George Washington]

Next Monday is Memorial Day, and in its honor, I'm re-running this post from 2011. I figured... it was time. We can all use a reminder from time to time.













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Thought for the day:  One nice thing about egotists: they don't talk about other people.


Well, are you ready for the big three-day weekend, America's unofficial start of summer? Ready for your first big cook-out of the season? Bought all your food, your booze, and have the swimming pool ready to go? Got those white shoes dusted off and back at the front of your closet? Your shopping list ready to take advantage of all those big sales?

Got everything done on your to-do list? Forgetting anything? Anything at all?


Some people consider Memorial Day to be our most important national holiday, but to others, it's nothing but  another three-day weekend filled with sales and cook-outs.

John Moon, the former commander-in-chief of the VFW, said

 Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance. America's collective consciousness demands that all citizens recall and be aware of the deaths of their fellow countrymen during wartime. Far too often, the nation as a whole takes for granted the freedoms Americans enjoy. Those freedoms were paid for with the lives of others few of us actually knew. That's why they are all collectively remembered for one special day.

Memorial Day.

 A memorial is something that keeps remembrance alive. Let's all of us, in the midst of our cooking out, and in the midst of our shopping and having a grand old time this weekend, remember all of those men and women who made the supreme sacrifice.



Those are the four words engraved on the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C.  And here is a poem with that same title, "Freedom is Not Free,"  written in 1988 by Air Force ROTC Cadet Major Kelly Strong:

                                              I watched the flag pass by one day.
                                              It fluttered in the breeze.
                                             A young Marine saluted it,
                                             And then he stood at ease.

                                             I looked at him in uniform
                                             So young, so tall, so proud,
                                             With hair cut square and eyes alert,
                                             He'd stand out in any crowd.

                                              I thought how many men like him
                                             Had fallen through the years.
                                             How many died on foreign soil?
                                             How many mothers' tears?

                                             How many pilots' planes shot down?
                                             How many died at sea?
                                             How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
                                             No, freedom is not free.

                                             I heard the sound of "taps" one night,
                                            When everything was still.
                                             I listened to the bugler play
                                            And felt a sudden chill.

                                             I wondered just how many times
                                             That "taps" had meant "Amen,"
                                             When a flag had draped a coffin
                                             Of a brother or a friend.

                                             I thought of all the children,
                                            Of the mothers and the wives,
                                            Of fathers, sons and husbands
                                            With interrupted lives.

                                            I thought about a graveyard
                                           At the bottom of the sea,
                                           Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
                                           No, freedom is not free.

Vietnam memorial
As an amateur radio operator, I've also had the privilege of serving as a member of  Army MARS. (Military Affiliate Radio Service) For Memorial Day one year, the Chief shared a story with us about a Captain who was stuck in traffic at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. It was pouring rain, and this captain was growing increasingly more agitated because he was running late, and knew he'd never make it to PT on time. Just as traffic was finally starting to move, the vehicle in front of him stopped, and a private jumped out into the pouring rain and ran into the Memorial Grove beside them.

What a bonehead! the captain thought.

Horns were honking, and the captain, as well as everyone else behind him, were fuming. Still, the private kept going, with his BDUs soaked and plastered to his skin. He ran up to one of the memorial plaques, picked up the small American flag that had fallen to the ground, and set it back up again. Then he came to attention and saluted, before running back to his car and driving off.

The captain later said, "That soldier, whose name I'll never know, taught me more about duty, honor, and respect than a hundred books or a thousand lectures. That simple salute - that simple act of honoring his fallen brother and his flag - encapsulated all the Army values in one gesture for me. It said I will never forget. I will keep the faith. I will keep the mission. I am an American soldier."



We may not be soldiers, but the least we can do is remember them, a very small effort for those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. The picture above is of the familiar Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., but most states also have memorials in honor of our Vietnam vets. The one in Springfield, Illinois, includes the following words:  To those who died, honor and eternal rest; to those still in bondage, remembrance and hope; to those who returned, gratitude and peace.

One last comment about Memorial Day. May 30 also happens to be my brother's birthday. He's a retired Marine, who served multiple tours of duty in Vietnam. So to him, I wish a very happy birthday, as well as gratitude and peace.


Happy Birthday, big brother. Semper fi

                                                Enjoy your three-day weekend, y'all.
                              Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

We stand today strong not primarily because we have the weapons or resources or the leadership needed to wage war, thought all are necessary, but because of an ideal. It is the ideal of freedom founded on the rights of the common man, on the dignity of the human being, on the conception of the state as the servant, and not the master, of its people.  [Franklin D. Roosevelt]


54 comments:

  1. A very happy birthday to your brother.
    No freedom is not free. And some pay considerably more for it than others.
    I hope (so much) that some day the memorial services can become a historical marker only. Some day...

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  2. That was a beautiful and moving post, Susan. Thank you. I won't be involved in commemorative activities, except in the privacy of thought, because I'm surrounded by thermometer stuck at 101, pulse oximeter with a poor opinion of me, aspirin, abuterol sulfate inhaler and bottle of Lodi pinot noir. But your post contains a stirring strength that I appreciate.

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    1. Thanks, dude. With your thermometer stuck at 101, I'll hush my mouth about our paltry "heat wave" that's measuring a good ten degrees cooler. May the Lodi work its magic at making you feel better. Get well soon.

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  3. Doesn't seem like a whole year has passed already. Have a great weekend, forget the diet (if you're on one)and enjoy cake!

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    1. You're right; a year simply doesn't last as long as it used to, and time seems to be gaining momentum every day. If this keeps up, I might as well leave the Christmas decorations up all year...

      You have a wonderful weekend, too. Nope, no diet. I probably should be, but pbbbbbt! Cake sounds like a lovely idea. We're going to a birthday dinner tomorrow night, so that's a strong possibility. :)

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  4. What a thoughtful and thought-provoking post. It's a shame that in the fervor of this holiday weekend we often let our selfish pleasures overshadow the selfless sacrifices that were made by those who fought for our country and our freedom.
    Thanks for reminding us of what it's all about.

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    1. Thanks, Jon. I think we all need reminding from time to time.

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  5. Hi Susan - thanks for reposting this ... a very telling post - one to make us all sit up and think ... and remember. Freedom does not come free ...

    Have a peaceful and happy weekend ... "we will remember" though - Hilary

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    1. You have a very happy and peaceful, weekend, too. With at least one fun adventure. Cheers!

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  6. Excellent post and an excellent reminder to all of us. Tell your brother I thank him for his service and am glad he made it home.

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  7. An excellent reminder--thanks for sharing it again.

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    1. Thanks, Linda. Even the most well-intentioned of us can sometimes forget.

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  8. Freedom sure didn't come free indeed. Can't take it for granted and must remember for sure.

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    1. We can't take freedom for granted, not only for the sake of those who fought and died for it, but also because if we get too complacent, we risk losing it.

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  9. I think we should always take time to remember all the people who have served to keep us free, I have a great respect for them all... I am deeply grateful xox

    Happy birthday to your brother, I hope is day is special and fun... have a lovely 3 day weekend xox

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    1. Agreed, Launna. You have a wonderful weekend, too. :)

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  10. Lovely post, Susan. I agree with Mark Twain. “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” Remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice as well as those who continue to fight for our freedom IS supporting our country.

    VR Barkowski

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    1. Thanks, VR. Mark Twain was a really smart man, wasn't he? Well said.

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  11. Much food for thought here. Enjoy your weekend!

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  12. Wow, that poem really got to me. No, Freedom is not free. Powerful words.

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    1. Yeah, that poem is really touching. A young cadet wrote it close to thirty years ago. Makes me wonder what happened to that cadet... it's a good bet he ended up going to war himself.

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  13. excellent post. We had the same mindset for today - holiday fun, but remember and honor is the reason we can "relax"
    Happy Birthday to your brother. Those Marines are tough!

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    1. What can I say? Great minds think alike.

      Ahhhh, he's not so tough. I'll bet I can still beat him at the poker table...

      Have a super weekend!

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  14. Hi Susan,

    A thoughtful, emotive post. Indeed, reflection and appreciation for those who served, many, sadly, never to return.

    A peaceful birthday for your brother.

    May you have a peaceful, positive Memorial Day.

    Gary

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    1. Hi, Gary.

      It's good to hear from you. I really enjoyed the interview with you. :)

      Thanks. May we all have a peaceful positive weekend. Take care.

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  15. Happy birthday to your brother. I feel a bit offended by Memorial Day sales and "celebrations." It's not a day to go shopping and get drunk. It's also the day my dad died. Your post is beautifully written, as always.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I'm sorry Memorial Day has such a personally painful significance for you. I agree that the day isn't meant to be a thoughtless occasion to get sloshed and hit the shopping malls. It's a day to remember and honor... and I'm sure you will.

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  16. Wonderful repost. Freedom is not free and it is not a big effort for us to remember what these service people did for us. I wish more people remembered instead of seeing this as only pool and barbecue time.

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  17. Happy birthday to your brother! :-) Freedom is not free. SO much true in that statement. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

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    1. Thanks! No, freedom isn't free, though we sometimes forget its cost... and its value.

      Greetings back atcha!

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  18. Well said!

    Have a nice weekend, and happy birthday to your brother!

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    1. Thanks. You have a terrific weekend, too.

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  19. Aaaaand I have tears in my eyes..what a beautiful post; what a wonderful way to remember Memorial day.

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    1. Maybe tears in our eyes is appropriate today.

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  20. What a moving post, Susan. Thank you so much for that. Have a great weekend.

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    1. Thanks, Keith. I hope you have a terrific weekend, too.

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  21. It's good to remind everyone, and sad that people need reminding. Semper Fi to your big brother.
    x

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    1. You're right. It is a shame that reminders are necessary.

      Take care, kiddo.

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  22. I have been up all night watching the Vietnam Experience on PBS. My husband was in the Air Force from '63 to'67. A month before he wa to be discharged, he got orders for Vietnam but would have to extend. Thankfully, he did not and married me instead (some battles there also). You have written about your husband's deployment a few times and I can always hear such pride in your words on the person he was and is. Bless him and all those who have served. Too many wars, so much pain.

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    1. Yes, I AM proud of my husband, but that doesn't mean I'm glad he went to war. I wouldn't wish that kind of horror on anyone, and I'm glad your husband didn't extend.

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  23. My dad's birthday is May 30th also, which makes the day all the more special. This was a beautiful and moving post, and goes way beyond the simple "it's important to remember because they protect us" rhetoric. Plus, it's true that freedom isn't free. I mean, this is America. Nothing is free!

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    1. Very cool. I hope you dad had a wonderful birthday.

      Freedom isn't free, but SOME things are. I get free books all the time. :)

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  24. It's a holiday that always brings me to tears. Greater love hath no man than this, that he lays down his life for his friends. In reality, those men and women who make the ultimate sacrifice truly are the best of the best.

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    1. I think it's a holiday that should bring everyone to tears.

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  25. I'm late to the party. I think it's great you hold up the REAl meaning of Memorial Day. I believe the more that we remember what was sacrificed the more thoughtful we will be in making choices for our future. Next up: June 14th Flag DAy...I love to fly the flag. Thanks for the connection to our history.

    I'm not sure why my name doesn't appear when I post, so just know I'm on of the anonymous people that you know
    BarbF.

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    1. HA! Hi, "Unknown." At least WE know who you are... Thanks for stopping by.

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  26. Finally got around to reading your post(6-8-16.) Thanks for the kind words and thank you to all your readers for their wishes as well.
    Love - Ron

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