I hope you’re doing well and looking forward to a beautiful weekend.
It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the U.S. – usually recognized as the first true hint of summer. When I was a kid growing up in Indiana, it meant fun times ahead.
School was out or soon to be – always worth celebrating.
The public swimming pool in my hometown would open on this weekend and I’d beg my parents to drive me into town so I could meet my friends there – and please, don’t make me take my little brothers, I’d beg.
Boy Scout camp would be in just a few weeks – the two weeks in the woods with my troop seemed like an eternity away from home, but I had so much fun…even with the poison ivy and the chiggers.
And summer baseball – my first love – was in full swing until August when it got so hot, that my wool blend uniform hung on me like a wet blanket. The ball got heavier and heavier as the innings wore on until it felt like throwing a 10-pound weight to the catcher.
The Memorial Day weekend was topped off with a ceremony at the public cemetery where veterans, bent and graying, stood at attention, saluting as a bugler played played taps in honor of those soldiers and sailors who’d fallen in battle years before just as it has been celebrated since the first Memorial Day after the Civil War in 1868.
That part of the weekend took a back seat to the fun I was anticipating as a skinny 12-year old. But my dad – a veteran – dragged the family to the cemetery regularly. I stood quietly and patiently. And after the ringing of the bugle wafted through the trees bringing tears and memories to all, we all walked away solemnly.
Today, Memorial Day means much more to me than just having a good long weekend sharing barbecue with family and friends.
I’m a veteran too – 3 years, 8 months and 13 days in the Air Force during the Vietnam war, although I never traveled beyond Germany in my tour of duty.
When I fly from my home in Alabama to Seattle regularly for business, soldiers returning home for good or for two weeks relief from a tour in Iraq surround me. Often the flight attendants ask that we let them off first when we arrive. Always…always, they are escorted off with gratitude and applause.
While driving into town this morning, I was listening to our new President Barack Obama giving a commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. As he spoke of the new crop of ensigns and lieutenants who had committed their lives to our defense and national service to ensure peace first and national security, he said that they had chosen a life of sacrifice that most Americans can’t imagine.
I got tears in my eyes.
I wasn’t overcome with emotion by the speech nor the man although I admire him greatly, but the sacrifice…and my two boys.
Matt, 31, is serving his 11th year of service, now stationed in Alaska as a full-time member of the Alaska Air National Guard where he transferred to pursue a commission after 10 years in the U.S. Air Force.
Ryan, 29, is in his third year as a Naval petty officer on a submarine at sea hundreds of feet below the surface of the ocean most of the time.
These are my boys – the same boys who celebrated past Memorial Days long ago with soccer tournaments, baseball games and outings to the movie theater for the first of many summer blockbusters with their dad.
These are the same boys who, at times, made me wonder if they’d ever grow up to become responsible contributing citizens; the same boys that brought pride and joy with their sensitivity and devotion to friends, family and each other.
And now they serve selflessly to protect us in any troubling situation – domestic or foreign.
Am I proud? You bet. Never more proud, never more devoted.
So, if you need to remember why we celebrate Memorial Day in this country, think of my boys – Matt and Ryan.
If you served, thank you.
If your father or mother served, hug them.
If you are in another country and you serve the cause of peace worldwide, thank you.
And if you want to share that gratitude with your friends and family, feel free to forward link to them.
Peace & Prosperity!