For Chet, Russ, Wiz, Dickie, and the guys of 5E…family and friends – some met, some unmet, yet all so very important.
I spent much of Memorial Day contemplating its true meaning – not just that it’s the day when we pause to remember our fallen, rather, the depth of loss that pause really represents.
We seem to anesthetize the pain it represents for our country by masking it in the celebrations of cookouts, swimming pools, and other outdoor celebratory gatherings – including at least 1,100 miles of auto racing between Indianapolis and Charlotte. On the one hand, these are our demonstrated celebrations of our freedom. But we cannot allow those celebrations – that day, or every day – to overlook that the counterbalance to our own celebrations are the remembered losses of others for whom a loved one never returned.
Memorial Day is intended to be the day when we remember our greatest heroes – our fallen. And yet my hope would be that the other 364 days of the year are not without the same remembrance, respect, and reverance somewhere within our consciousness. If it were so true, I believe our nation’s fabric would be exponentially stronger.
A quick bit of surfing on-line reveals that our nation’s past includes over 1,354,664 lost in the line of service, 1,498,237 and counting wounded, and 40,917 missing (predominantly from World War II and Vietnam). To abbreviate those numbers as “1.4M…” would be disrespectful, as each counted soul was lost, wounded, or remains missing on our collective behalf. Each of them has their own family and story – and so, each one counts immensely and is his or her own personal tragedy with rippling repurcussions for so many others, as a rock that disturbs calm waters ripples out far from its initial point of impact.
I mentioned to a friend recently that I have been privileged and blessed over the past year to have the benefit of visibility into a group of ol’ Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen who were once high school chums and have since remained close for some 50+ years. One of them generously added me to their email string sometime back, so now I’m on their nearly daily email exchanges. I’m typically most content to just sit back and listen to their banter as I read their exchanges. You see, they represent an apprecation for their history in a way that is a lost opportunity among today’s generation, which is too fixated on the “now” and not enough on “back when…” We can learn from them.
Within this group, there are a number of true heroes. For each of them, there are losses not discussed – whether stories left on the battlefield, or names etched in Panel 5E of that reflective wall.
There is the preacher who promised his life’s work to Him while pinned down in the battle at Lang Vei. There is the physician who writes of his longing for America’s morality and future, pining for its healing far beyond what he is able to do as he touches one patient at a time. And there is the ol’ Colonel who also suffered loss as a young Lieutenant back in ’66 – he would go on to rise through the ranks of the Army, retire as a senior Officer, enjoy a fabulous run in private industry, and yet, a part of him has always remained that young Lieutenant as he has looked for and invested in the lives of others around him. Each of them has remembered and mourned each day, as should we. Indeed, we can learn from them.
And so, as we think about our respective roles in making our small part of this country and this world just a bit better, please remember. Find the opportunities for those Memorial celebrations well before next May. In the moments with family and co-workers…where the conversations and activities provoke your thoughts a bit…call it out and give thanks. When you see the young soldiers in the airport, say thank you. When you see them with family or friends in the restaurant, quietly pay their bill anonymously. When you’re setting the table for a special family gathering, set one extra spot at an empty seat. When you’re at Home Depot, pick up a new flag and display it year-round – and display it appropriately.
This is your opportunity to be in service to them.
We’re fortunate to be in this part of a complex and often unkind world. And we have millions to thank for it. But beyond just thanking them, we can honor them each day. And so we must.
Keep it lit, y’all…