Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Day

Today I'm feeling a little nostalgic. You know, kinda like when your grandparents say things like "When I was your age..." followed by some statement that refers to old times being better times.

Does your town have a Memorial Day parade? Our town doesn't, and neither does one in the general vicinity. We have one in the summer, but on some non-descript day in the middle of July. Not on a day of national importance. I think that's pretty sad. When I was a little kid, the Memorial Day parade was a big deal. We'd meet up with my grandparents at the town square to watch. When the parade led off with the color guard, hats were removed and all right hands were placed on their hearts. Adults instructed their young children to do so as well. It was considered rude NOT to. When the veterans marched by, my grandpa would crouch down beside me and cheer as they went by to encourage me to do the same. I didn't understand war or what our veterans had done for us. Nor did I understand as we stood in silence at the cemetery, that the 21 gun salute was to honor the fallen...those soldiers that have given the ultimate sacrifice so I could be free.

My grandfather was a first generation immigrant from a country continually threatened by communist rule. He understood how precious freedom is. He understood that freedom isn't free. In those small actions, he was imparting this to me by teaching me respect for our nation.

As a teen in high school I was in the marching band. I was now in that same parade, wearing a full wool uniform as we played patriotic songs down the parade route, usually in 85 degree heat. At it's end, we stood at attention during the entirety of the ceremony at the cemetery while the sweat dripped. We didn't dare move. While I had somewhat of an intellectual understanding of what war was, and how precious our freedom is, I can't say I had a personal understanding of it. It wasn't until my friends were shipping out for the Gulf did I even start to gain that knowledge. But in those early days, as I watched those parades as a girl it was teaching me respect...respect for our flag and what it represents, respect for our veterans, respect for our soldiers, and for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives for the greater good of the nation.

In the current environment where political party tends to rank over nationalism, I encourage all of you to remember how great a nation America truly is. No, we're not perfect. But it's because of our soldiers past and present that we have freedoms most other nations cannot enjoy. It's because of these freedoms you can even criticize our leaders, or vote them in (or out) of office. I hope I can impart this sense of respect for our soldiers and veterans to my children. It is because of them, everyday citizens who chose to serve our nation, who not only made our country, but continue to make our country great.
Photo Credit: Flags-In Ceremony at Arlington Cemetery. You can read about and see more photos of this event, which occurs every year. On the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as 'The Old Guard' and other available servicemen and women place small American flags in front of every grave marker at Arlington Cemetery, as well as the Soldiers' and Airmens' Cemeteries, which total over 280,000.


Kristin said...

I wish people paid better attention to the importance of Memorial Day.

Beautiful Mess said...

Beautifully written! I agree, It seems as though it isn't what it use to be. Thanks for the reminder ;o)

Kristin said...

I tagged you over on my blog