Five years ago I started taking my WWII Veteran father to the Memorial Day Ceremony in his hometown. I didn’t know what to expect. My son was serving in the Marine Corps at the time. I cannot imagine what it is like for these two men or any of our men and women in the military as they remember friends they lost in war.
I found the ceremony to be very moving. There was a gentleman singing “All gave some, some gave all.” That’s it. The tears started rolling down my face. Do we, as Americans, have any idea the great sacrifices our men and women in the military make?? That their families make as well? Would my son be one of those that “gave all” in Afghanistan? Would I see him again? Would I be able to hug him again? Would he come home injured, unable to live a normal life? (Whatever that is!) Would he come home relatively unscathed, wondering why him, haunted by memories? Or would his name be among those read that we are asking America to please remember their service, sacrifice, valiance and bravery?
I got it just a little bit. I say just a little bit because there is no way I will ever know just what these strong, selfless men and women experience. I realized that every single name on that list was someone’s son or daughter. Many of them are mothers and fathers themselves, away from their beloved families protecting and defending our freedom and trying to do the same for others in the world. They are our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and neighbors. My heart ached for those who will not get to see and hug their loved ones again.
The ceremony was a beautiful tribute to those who have given all for our freedom. At the end of the ceremony, as everyone stood with their hands over their hearts, and our beautiful American flag was slowly raised while we sang The National Anthem, I looked over and saw my 87 year old father stand the proudest, straightest and tallest I have ever seen him stand, and salute our flag. Oh, my geez! How in the world is a girl ever supposed to stop crying?!? I got it just a little bit more. Wow! These fearless men and women are proud (as they should be!) of the sacrifices they made to protect our freedom, our civil rights. It runs deep in their veins. No matter how long it has been since they served. They know they did something incredibly important and played a huge role in the shaping of our history. They believe that being away from their families and lives as they knew it was worth it. My heart swelled with pride for this remarkable man beside of me. I saw him with new eyes. I was so very thankful he was still alive himself, and that I could share in this moment with him.
I squeezed my Daddio extra tight and told him I love him and that I am so proud of him. I thanked him for the sacrifices he made for our family and our country. Somehow it didn’t and still doesn’t seem like enough. It was a beautiful thing to watch so many people come up to him, shake his hand and thank him for his service. The smile on his face was priceless. It was so special to see him recognized like that. You could see the gleam in his eyes, knowing his efforts had been appreciated and valued.
I think one of the greatest ways we can honor these heroes is to celebrate and enjoy the freedoms they so selflessly secure for us. I am going to wipe the tears from my cheeks, and do just that. As you are enjoying your hamburgers and hotdogs this weekend, please take a few minutes and remember those who “gave all” so that you can enjoy your family, friends and whatever festivities you choose. If you can, attend a Memorial Day Ceremony near you. It will be one of the most meaningful hours of your life. I will be the super proud Momma, sitting beside her Daddio, watching her son in the Rifle Detail in a Ceremony I wouldn’t miss. I will give them both extra tight squeezes and my thanks. In loving gratitude, I remember. Won’t you join me?