This day holds special meaning for me. As I've described in previous Memorial Day posts (you're welcome to check those out in my blog archives), Memorial Day means a lot to me. Unlike many Americans who seem to be too busy, too caught up in patriotic fervor, or too occupied with the "first weekend of summer" hype to notice what this day is really about, I spent ten years around the military community and learned what this day truly means. I personally knew a Marine who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and I've met many other families whose loved ones did the same. This day isn't to celebrate the living of those who serve - that's for Armed Forces Day. It isn't to celebrate those who have served previously - that's what Veterans Day is about. It isn't to simply celebrate America - that's for July 4th. This day is to honor those who died. Those who were willing to give their own lives and their own futures in order to protect the rest of us. And so, on this Memorial Day, I say thank-you to them once again. I will never take their sacrifices for granted. I hope you won't either.
The following poem is one that I wrote several years ago which details my reflections of this day and past experiences I've had while walking in the national military cemeteries on Memorial Day:
The Last Goodbye
A solider kneels beside the grave
Of someone he held dear;
A widow, quietly standing by,
Wipes her face of tears.
A veteran comes to lay a wreath
Or to say a final word.
The innocent chirping of the birds,
The only sound that's heard.
A leader comes to pay respects,
And friends remember well
The youthful man they honor here
With every story they tell.
As they say their last farewell,
I'm often asking why
It's more than just a parting -
It's seems like a last goodbye:
A scene too quickly forgotten,
A sacrifice brushed aside;
No place for the fallen to live on,
No heart to within abide.
Is this the only time we pause
To think on what they gave?
The only day we set aside
To honor these the brave?
What will the solider feel this day?
The widow? Or veteran too?
Will this day find us at his grave
To give the warrior his due?
Will we join the leader,
Or the friends who gather there,
To say a silent thank-you
And to show them that we care?
Let's not make this the last goodbye
But take this journey here,
To lay a rose and say a word,
To keep his memory near.
Don't let the soldier grieve alone,
The widow, the veteran, or friends -
This warrior cared enough to die;
Let's love them to the end.
Don't wait another year to say
You think on what he they gave,
But every time you see the flag,
In your heart, make a pilgrimage to his grave.