It is worth noting, and providing a reminder to friends and family, on this and every Memorial Day that today is not Veteran’s Day. While there is never a bad time to give a thought – and thanks – to our nation’s veterans, today is the day when we come together in reverence to commemorate the Honored Dead. We commiserate with the Gold Star families, old and new, who have paid the ultimate price to ensure that the United States of America will endure. Most any veteran you ask will echo this sentiment, as Paul Szoldra notes in a touching piece at Business Insider this morning.
Do not thank me for my service because today is not about me at all.
That’s what a number of fellow military veterans said, when I asked what they wanted people to know about Memorial Day.
“It’s not about us,” said Staff Sgt. Jay Arnold, a soldier with the Illinois Army National Guard. “It’s about those who went before us.”
I would also not discourage anyone from celebrating and relaxing on this day, firing up the barbeque grill, kicking back with friends and taking a day to rest from your normal labors. It’s good to do that now and again, and perhaps it provides an even better atmosphere where we can remember the fallen, not just with tears or mourning, but with smiles and appreciation. It would probably also help to take a moment to reacquaint ourselves with the original order which established this day of recognition, as The Lid does over at this place.
In our family, I suppose would could consider ourselves exceptionally lucky. We have only had two soldiers fall in battle out of all the men who served on both my maternal and paternal sides. But of course, two is too many. One is too many for any family in the moment of loss when they are informed that one of their own has given the last full measure of devotion. And yet for every family who experiences this, with the passage of time the healing begins. And on Memorial Day, at American Legion or VFW posts, at all the parades which may seem silly and outdated to the young who have not been touched by such a loss, at the backyard cookouts and the ceremonies at graveyards draped with flowers and flags, these families who paid such an awful price come together and realize that they are not alone. And with the healing that comes with time, the pain fades into the background and we join together with others who also sacrificed so much and remember that it was all for a reason.
And we find a way to smile.
With that, I leave you with one of the better tributes ever put to paper by the hand of man… In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae.
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.