Memorial Day Memories-Things my father taught me
Memorial Day brings a flood of memories to me from experiences I was fortunate to have while my father was alive. It seems hard to believe that my dad has been gone for almost 30 years, but his hard work and his dedication to remembering those who served their country and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice is long-lasting and vivid for me. I’ll share a little bit about what I learned as a tribute to this very, very special holiday for all Americans.
My father graduated from high school in 1941 and worked a few years until he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1943. He decided that the Marines were the best choice for him and he never once regretted that choice, or if he did I never heard about it. He saw some terrible things during his tour of duty, serving with the Third Marine Corps Division at Iwo Jima and also at Guam. He may have had some other stops, but the Iwo experience is the one that I think many of us can relate to thanks to the hard work of Clint Eastwood in the movie “Flags of our Fathers”, based upon the book of the same name written by the son of one of the flag-raisers, James Bradley. The book and movie do such an excellent job of helping me to more fully understand just what these young men experienced and also help me better grasp the meaning of sacrifice that his generation grew up with coming out of the great depression. We complain now if we have to wait for a hamburger, while they may not have known where their next meal was coming from.
After the war my dad got involved with the American Legion and he ended up being in charge of decorating veteran’s graves each year in May for Memorial Day. I remember many a day searching for the Legion markers on graves and then placing the flag on the grave. We also picked the flags back up after each holiday and stored them for usage the next year. He even went to the extent of putting blue paint on the tips of the flags in order to know they were Legion flags and not those of other organizations with similar purposes. He had his work down to a science. Occasionally he would share a small story about this veteran or another who we would walk by. How little I knew about how he might have felt or just what the families of these young men and women felt as they experienced this loss while in battle or sometime after the war. Our generation has experienced a much more open account of battles in Vietnam and the Desert Gulf, but veterans from my dad’s era rarely talked about their experiences-it was not the way they were raised or wired.
So as I sit here and reminisce about one more Memorial Day I just have two things to say. The first is “Thank You” to every man and woman who wears, or has worn, the uniform of any service of the United States of America. Each and every one of you has been through sacrifices that most of us cannot grasp and will never fully understand. The second is “God Bless America”. We are a fortunate nation, even though we have many faults. I cannot think of a better place to be.
I try to always thank anyone in uniform for their services. I attended the SEC Baseball Championship in Hoover, AL yesterday and sat there in silence as they recognized veterans who had lost limbs during battles, but were willing to be recognized at the event. I also felt deep empathy for the families who were recognized who had lost loved ones within the last year.
Enjoy your Memorial Day, but never forget the sacrifice that was made to make this day possible.