While I tend to be the laid back fella here, I had to take the time today to write a short little post. It’s Memorial Day in the United States. For anyone unaware, this is the day that Americans usually think of as a three-day weekend for BBQing and generally enjoying an extra day off work. Others recognize it has something to do with the military. It does include these things but on this holiday, I felt the duty to write a bit more about it. We all love The Simpsons but sometimes, real life has to be mentioned too.
A lot of people look at Memorial day and point out to me that I get some nice fancy discounts on things for being a veteran. Others wish me a “Happy Memorial Day” and I get shivers. Happy? Not so much. In the 14 years I spent in boots, I had the privilege to be a medic for the finest human beings I’ll probably ever get the chance to meet. I witnessed bravery, compassion, hilarity, courage and character that will last with me until the day I pass into the next phase of life. Every Memorial Day, I try hard to focus on what it is really about.
Memorial Day is a US federal holiday where we remember those who died while serving in the Armed Forces. A lot of countries have similar holidays. I don’t claim to know all of them but I know the UK has Remembrance Day in November. Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day and originated after the American Civil War. It has gone on to include all wars and those who dies while serving the United States. Many people visit cemeteries during this holiday, often placing a US flag on service member’s graves. Additionally, Memorial Day tends to mark the beginning of summer in the US, hence the BBQs, but did you know that this tradition stems from graveside “dinners on the ground” aka potlucks during Memorial Day? Families would gather by their fallen and share each other’s company to honor their dead.
As a vet of the US military, I have to point out that while it is nice to have more time off for extra things, this holiday is actually about the men and women who have given their lives for the freedom of the United States. It’s about understanding that your freedoms came at a price, often to members of your own family and community. For our international readers, while this is an American holiday, it could serve as a reminder of your own military who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Do you know when your country honors its veterans and fallen heroes?
Freedom isn’t free and my service is nothing compared to the heroes that sacrificed for me and mine. This day certainly isn’t about me. It definitely is a day though to remember my Great Uncle Douglas who is still missing from WWII and presumed buried at sea. He followed in the footsteps of my Grandpa (a B-17 pilot) by enlisting and serving as a B-24 gunner in the Pacific. He never returned. I remember clearly finding two Distinguished Flying Crosses in my Gramps’ closet when I was young. My Grandpa found me and sat me down and told me one was his and the others his brother’s who never came home. He went on to let me know the only one that was truly earned was Uncle Doug’s. This coming from a man who piloted 60 combat missions in Europe. A lesson hard to forget.
Bunny and I have talked about the holiday and what it means to us. Memorial Day is a sad one for my dear fuzzy sister, but she shared some thoughts with me I got her permission to share because I found them so moving…
A solemn note from the heart of Bunny,
For me, Memorial Day is difficult. As is Father’s Day. More so due to the many amazing men in my life that have served their country, continue to serve for their country, or have given their lives for their country. It is a day that I visit their markers, let them know they are not forgotten, and thank them for the legacy they have left behind.
I watched my Uncle W, who was injured in WWII, as he struggled later in life just to walk across the room. He never said he was in pain. He never asked for help. He just always kept on pushing, kept on struggling to make every step in his life count. As a young girl I was curious and asked, “Why?” He gave me an answer that sticks with me to this day, “Because I am taking the steps that all those that didn’t come home can’t. I live for them. I walk for those who can’t. I breathe for those who can’t. They are with me, always. When I am at my worst and the pain overwhelms me…I just think of them…and in their death, as they did in their lives, they carry me home.”
I see my cousins coming back from their 3rd, 4th, 5th tours of duty. Shell shocked and changed. But the moment their feet hit the soil of home…the doorsteps they thought they would never see again…the Mother, Father, Siblings and loved ones embraces they thought they could never feel again… that young child inside shines right through. It holds them and shelters them. A glimpse of who they were returns. Though their shoulders are visually heavy with what they experienced and brought back, they need not say a word though. I just know and it makes me so very proud of them.
There are so many stories to share, so many tales to be told of their work and sacrifices…but to this day one stands out to me the most.
My Uncle HR. A young man, barely in his 20’s in a land far far away from home in the Vietnam War. Not quite sure what he got himself into, but as many of my other family members far and wide before him did, he felt it was his duty to serve. He had been gone a little while from home. Missed his Mom and siblings, but kept pushing forward. He had just finished up his duties for the night and was venturing across a bridge to go visit with the rest of his buddies who were on the other side. That was the last anyone ever saw of him.
Time went on and my Gram never stopped speaking of him. A photo of him always in the family room. MIA is what they told her, but she held out hope. She always wondered and worried. Was he alive? Was he OK? Was he getting enough to eat? Never giving up faith that one day he would come home.
Then it happened. Through a network the government uses to identify the fallen, the family DNA had been matched to the remains of one of the soldiers they had recovered through investigations. They had found my Uncle. He was finally coming home. My Grams cried as I never heard her cry before. Happiness, sadness, just so many emotions all at once.
So many Men, Women, and Veterans showed up to the final farewell at the cemetery. Dressed in their uniforms. Proudly displaying their medals. Flags lined the streets everywhere on the way there. News, media, so many had come out to see. So many had come to pay their respects. Even with the multitude there, a solemn silence lingered all around. A show of respect for a fallen brother. A simple young boy. He had served his country. He was lost and so far away from home. But now…he was finally home.
On this Memorial Day my thoughts, heart, and prayers go out to all those brave Men and Women still out there away from home. To those that came home carrying the ones left behind with them. And especially for those that gave their lives to give us our freedoms…Someone is always carrying you too, whether it be in their mind or heart, you will never be forgotten.
Serious heartfelt stuff and much love to Bunny for sharing.
Note from Alissa: Wow, there’s not much more I can add to the amazing words and stories from Bunny and Wookiee so I’m not even going to try. I’m simply going to say thank you. Thank you to all who have served, all who continue to serve & all who have lost their lives defending their country.
By all means enjoy the day, but please take the time to remember why you get to enjoy the extra time in the first place. I could go on and on about some of the heroes I had the privilege to serve with but will let these words stand. I know it’s pretty serious stuff but this holiday is important to me and deserves the attention. If there is someone special you’d like to honor in the comments, please share. For all our readers who have served, I do truly thank you and know you’re picking up what I’m putting down. Hope today is a great one for all but it’s our duty to remember while we enjoy it.
God Bless and TTFN… Wookiee out!