Memorial Day

“They seem to go on forever.”

The grave markers in any national cemetery seem to be endless. Row after row of white stone. They reflect the high cost of freedom, the high cost of war, and of those who answered the call of duty. The vast number of markers is also a reminder of the promise that is America. They represent the best of a nation, the greatness of a nation, willing to give so much.

It was early 1965. One of the kids at the grade school I attended had lost their dad in a far off place. Not many were aware of the simmering war in Vietnam, a war ready to explode. Though in the same grade, I did not know him. The death of the boy’s dad spread like wildfire through the school. “What do you say,” was the common refrain. Somehow, word had gotten back the third-grader said, “I hate America. They sent my dad to some faraway place to die.” A strong sentiment. Another boy, in the fifth or sixth grade said the unthinkable, “Perhaps it was good his dad died.” Being part of a military family also, the older boy was reprimanded by his parents for his insensitivity. The older boy’s dad, in uniform, and mom in her Sunday best, apologized to the school for their son’s callousness. “It is not part of the values he has been taught at home.”

The sentiment of the younger boy was understandable. Those who remained home during that war, or any other, probably may not fully appreciate the feeling. Inevitably, it would be said, “an ungrateful youngster who doesn’t realize how good he has it.” The grief and sudden shock, especially for children, is unfathomable.

War is brutal at best, savage at worst. Its perception is far different from the reality.  Perception is more of an intellectual understanding. The reality is its surreal nature – violence and tenderness, side-by-side. The emotions can range from unbridled rawness to the humorous.

This Memorial Day, do not remember the fallen because of heroism, sacrifice or duty. Remember them as ordinary men and women, each with their own story and dreams. They are who made America. They are America.

May God bless them. May God bless America.

National Moment of Remembrance –

To remember and honor those who have fallen in service to the nation, the National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to observe one minute of silence at 3:00 pm local time.

About the photos

These photos were taken at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery near San Diego in June 2014 and June 2016.

 

A Day of Remembrance

 

A special contributing post by Andrea Kanakredes, RN, MSN and Lauren Westin, MD.

 

“No one speaks of sacrifice. Coming home is all that matters.”

In 2004, there was a short news item in which a 12-year old girl decorated the long forgotten Civil War section of the local cemetery in her town, in her home state of Tennessee. The year before, she noticed the many small American flags in the other sections of the cemetery. The Civil War section had become overgrown with tall grass and was heavily shadowed by towering trees. She asked the cemetery caretaker who were buried there, noting she hadn’t seen anyone visiting that particular section. The caretaker had replied those buried there were mostly Union soldiers and a few Confederate soldiers from the Civil War. It was his guess there were no more family to come visit. Their friends, long gone as well. She asked if she could leave some flags and a few flowers for those buried there. The caretaker said sure. He would see the grass would be cut and the trees trimmed.

On the Sunday before Memorial Day, the 12-year old planted nearly 100 small American flags. For the Confederate soldiers, she also left a small Confederate flag with the American flag. She also left a single flower at each grave site. When asked why she did it, the girl replied it was sad that they were forgotten. No one is left to visit them, let alone remembered. They were someone’s son, brother, husband or uncle. They gave all so that we could become a better nation.

On the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson take time to honor the soldiers, from the post, who have fallen in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the memorial, located at the Main Gate, a ceremony honors them. They also add the names of those who may have fallen in the past year. Sadly, seven names were added to the memorial this year.

The ceremony itself is a very moving experience. Your heart skips a beat, your breath taken away, when you hear the name of a soldier called, signifying their addition to the memorial.

 

Walking among the memorial stones, there is a sense of sadness. It is heightened when you see the mementoes left by the family and friends. The groundskeepers for the memorial carefully archive each memento, each letter, each photo left behind before they are stored away. Yet, there is a sense of thankfulness for the young men and women who gave so much. Their greatest desire was to come home, to be with their friends and family.

The greatest fear of any soldier is to be forgotten if they were to die on the battlefield. They hope there would be someone who will remember, who will stand vigil for them. But, in time, they know they will be another name on a forgotten memorial.

To our friends who died in Afghanistan four years ago and five years ago, we miss you greatly. We know your families miss you even more.

May God bless them. May God bless the United States.

xoxo

 

These photos were taken in June 2011. The memorial was commemorated in June 2004. Without fanfare, former President and Mrs. Bush have visited the memorial, taking time to study many of the names and offering silent prayers.

On Hallowed Ground

With a sweeping vista overlooking the Pacific, its quietness and solemnity permeates the grounds. Andrea and I walked the grounds of Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in Point Loma while in San Diego. The rows upon rows of white gravestones remind you are truly walking among heroes, the final resting place for those from the Mexican-American War (1846) to Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

 

We spent an hour visiting our friends, Cherie and David, who are interred here, providing them fresh flowers. We also did the same for another bud, JR, who was also killed in Afghanistan in 2010. To our great delight, we ran into Amy, JR’s wife, who was also bringing fresh flowers for her husband, and Cherie and David.

While it is easy to become saddened of those who were killed in action, the sudden lost of hopes and dreams, particularly of the young guys, they would ask you not to be sad. They died in the company of, and for, their friends and brothers, and would gladly do so again. “Another guy had to get home, to have a long life with his wife and kids.” This is why they are the best of our nation, and deserving of our daily remembrances so very much.

xoxo