Memorial Day has traditionally been celebrated as the beginning of Summer. No, not the actual date summer begins, but the official day when the seasonal holidays start and the barbecues begin, beaches open, playgrounds are filled with children, parks, lakes and pools ring with the laughter and mirth of kids and adults alike. The sweet smoky smell of hot dogs, hamburgers and even marshmallows over a fire waft through the air, an odor that beckons each and every one of us to childhood memories no matter our age.
But wait, somehow, in all of the fun and frivolity, many seem to have forgotten the solemnity and sacred meaning of Memorial Day. What it should mean to every American. Memorial Day is a day set aside each year to remember the fallen warriors of our country; those who made the ultimate sacrifice to give each of us freedom, and the ability to reach out for the American Dream. No, they didn't give you the American Dream, you have to work for that yourself. But they gave their lives to assure you had the freedom to reach out for it, free from oppression, tyranny and grave injustice as is the case in so many other countries.
It doesn't matter whether you call it a war, police action, or what name you pin on combat. Or any other action that places our military men and women in harms way to defend freedom. Men and women gave all so that we might live free. They didn't do it for fame or glory, or a medal to pin on their uniform. Medals usually came too late to shine in a parade; many were laid on rows of caskets at ceremonies in such places as Arlington and Fort Rosecrans. The Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Coast Guardsman, Air Forceman or Merchant Marine never saw the glint of the Silver Star or Purple Heart or other medal in the sun as it laid upon his casket. But the family knew the bravery that he or she displayed many days or weeks or months before this day came to pass.
Most of our fallen warriors did come home, to be interred in their beloved country near family and loved ones. But many didn't and are buried on foreign shores in huge cemeteries, marked by simple crosses and markers, the only remnants of fierce battles, where Americans shed their blood to give freedom to others in a foreign land. They didn't know the people, but knew freedom was as important to them as it is to us. Freedom, the one thing that is perhaps as much important as life itself.
In my humble opinion, the three most important things are life, love and freedom. Without them life is just a bleak and somewhat hopeless experience. With perseverance and luck, many find love, but it takes a very special person willing to lay it all on the line to fight for your freedom. When you realize the warrior doesn't know you, or the individuals they are fighting for in most cases, it makes it even more impressive that they are willing to sacrifice all for others, to give them a chance at a better life.
On this Memorial Day, I will remember my brothers who have fallen in Vietnam, as well as all those who have fallen before, and after, in every war and conflict. I will remember those who have been ravaged by the remnants of war, and who have died as a result of service-connected injuries and illnesses, those who never appear in casualty rolls, but who are casualties just the same.
And some special prayers to several brothers who are very close in my heart today and always will be. Rest well my brothers; we'll all be crossing the bar to join you some day.
And, just in case anyone ever forgets:
FREEDOM ISN'T FREE!