Memorial Day is a great time for opening pools, grilling with friends and family, taking a short vacation on a long weekend. But it is far more than that. It is a time for special remembrance. We all know that, but it quickly fades in the sunshine and good times for those of us who have never stepped foot on a battle field, never lost someone to war, grew up without ever having to even think about let alone question our freedom.
But if we just stop and consider the freedoms that are ours, listen to the stories of those who HAVE served, those who HAVE lost, the vital truth behind why we have this holiday will both sober us and inspire us, and make our hearts swell with pride and gratitude for each and everyone of the men and women who gave their lives in the service of our nation.
My father is one of the many who inspire almost reverence in me. As I look at his black and white pictures from World War II, and see his and his young friends’ faces full of courage and earnestness, I become overwhelmed with a feeling I can’t describe. When I hear him tell of the clouds of smoke rising from Pearl Harbor as thousands of sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers sank to a watery grave, I am speechless. When I hear him speak of his own sense of mission as he jumped into the blackness of night over Normandy, the skies lit only by tracer flares and gunfire, I am overwhelmed at the horrific things they witnessed, and the extraordinary courage they exuded. As his voice breaks when he wonders about the men he led but never saw again on that history-altering night when they began to liberate France, the enormity of the sacrifices made becomes very real. As he prayed for the families of those who, despite their fervent prayers to be spared, heard that dreaded knock at the door saying their soldier will never walk through the door again, I am overcome with emotion and gratitude.
My dad puts a name, a face, and a family for me on Memorial Day. It is easy for me to take a mental leap and think of the thousands who gave all throughout all of our American history, and those who are giving all now. I remember. I am grateful.