Today much of the nation will be celebrating the “unofficial start to summer” with cookouts, parties, or just a chance to enjoy an extra day off. But for many of you, the true meaning of the day will not be forgotten, as we pause to once again pay honor to the men and women, the Honored Dead, who have given everything in service to our nation. It’s a tradition which we should be proud to note has remained strong across generations, even during times of protest and unrest when respect seemed to be in short supply. But we should also be careful to remember precisely who it is we are honoring, and why it remains more important than ever to stay vigilant, pledging that the sacrifice they made will never prove to have been in vain.
We regularly highlight our returning veterans, as is proper, and work to ensure that we fulfill our obligations to them. But while we do that, it’s equally important to focus on those family members and friends who didn’t get that opportunity. I was given a stark reminder of that this year as our family welcomed home my nephew Danny from his first full tour in Afghanistan with the US Army Rangers. Given his position, he was frequently in the most dangerous territory over there, and the entire family was understandably worried about his safety the whole time he was gone. So I was jolted with a bit of guilt over the rush of relief and joy we all experienced when he finally made it safely back to the United States. He brought some much needed perspective to us as he recounted the list of his friends and fellow warriors who did not survive to experience their own family reunions, and they were numerous indeed.
For the other families you may know or encounter, the wounds may not be as fresh, but they never go away and carry on from generation to generation. While nearly all the men in my family have served, we were blessed in that none of my immediate family fell in battle, but two of my cousins were lost in Vietnam and two uncles in World War 2. You probably know a lot of people with similar stories – or are a member of such a family yourself – and it might be long past time for you to offer them a kind word of thanks and a reminder that we have not forgotten the debt we owe them, now and for as long as the nation stands.
I would close with what is possibly one of the most appropriate bits of verse ever written on such an occasion, from Robert Louis Stevenson.
UNDER the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you ‘grave for me:
Here he lies where he long’d to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
Be well, and safe travels to all of you who are traveling today to pay your respects.
UPDATE: From the comments.
In memory of AT2 Gary Nesbitt, and AW2 Jim Piepkorn, lost in the service of their country. Navy Aircrew, my shipmates, my friends.
On eternal patrol
TKindred on May 27, 2013 at 8:17 AM
PFC Harry A. Goldenberg
K Co., 105th Inf. Reg., 27th Inf. Div.
KIA Saipan, 7/1/44
Rixon on May 27, 2013 at 9:03 AM
Staff Sgt. Irby Dyer…
The identifiable remains of three of the crew were recovered, but those of Daniel Sulander and Irby Dyer were not.”
Viator on May 27, 2013 at 9:18 AM
In memory of:
Don Charles Wood
354TH TFS, 355TH TFW, 13TH AF
United States Air Force
sisterchristian on May 27, 2013 at 10:34 AM
In memory of Lance Corporal Philip E Charte USMC
KIA Sept 7th 2010 Helmand Pr. Afghanistan.
God be with you and your family,
Thicklugdonkey on May 27, 2013 at 10:52 AM