May 25, 2009

The Holiday That Holds My Heart

Today is Memorial Day.

The annual Memorial Day service I have attended for over seven years appears to have been canceled. The rain would have been a problem anyway, heavy thunderstoms while sitting under a tent isn't my idea of fun.

But it's Memorial Day.

Dying for one's country isn't anyone's idea of fun either.

I'd still have gone.

But I need to find a new venue to attend as mine appears to be no longer, something I wondered about since the woman who has always put it on, died right before last year's.

That doesn't mean I haven't spent most of the weekend thinking about it... what it means.

I don't take Memorial Day for granted. Singlehandedly, it is the most solemn of events annually, for me. It is a day I participate in, think about deeply, and a day where I pray for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so I can be me, in my Country, enjoying all that is... American.

I have said in the past, that I am a direct descendent of 13 people who in some way helped this Country earn it's freedom. As of this year, I can add a 14th patriot, as we found this year my Mother has one on her side as well... and I suspect there are many many more.

From the start of this Great Country, my family has in some way participated.

The Revoluntionary War, Civil War (both sides), WWII, Vietnam, and wars in between.

And from what I have learned, not one have been called to make the ultimate sacrifice.

All came home.

I find that incredible.

I have a good friend whose Patriot was captured by the Red Coats. Held as a POW, they fed him... and embedded in his last meal, ground glass. He died of internal bleeding.

This is not family lore. This is all documented. Her Patriot, over 230 years ago, DIED for our Country... a Country that was not quite... yet.

Odd how I think of this man often. When she told me this story once over coffee, I was stunned. I'm picturing Valley Forge, and groups of men lining up and shooting each other, and forts, and cannons... and stench and frostbite... and... a lone man dying at the hands of his captors, unknowingly, until it was too late.

The Revolutionary War was the first war where we lost Americans. I hadn't thought of it that way until she and I were talking.

And we have had men and women pay the ultimate sacrifice ever since.

I went to Washington, DC five years ago, to represent this same women's organization from where I know this woman. While there I toured the various monuments.

I wanted to see the WWII Memorial. I had to see it.

WWII is... so close, but so removed. I know so many who served, but they came back. I didn't think it would effect me as it did, but I found myself silent, walking, crying.

The Korean War Memorial was haunting. I'm not sure I'm over it yet. I don't know who designed it, but if their intent was to get to the core of your soul, they succeeded.

I could not do the Vietnam Memorial. I could not do The Wall. As I told my friend who was with me, "We can do anything you want, any Memorial, but I know the limits of what I can emotionally endure, and I can't do The Wall."

It is still too raw in my heart. I have tried to put my finger upon it, as they are not men I knew that died there.

But they are men and women that my DAD knew. They are men and women that many of my co-workers knew. They were fathers of friends of mine... friends from later in life. They are men and women that still live in the hearts and nightmares of too many people that I care about.

And so by extension... I ache.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to make it there. I know that I will cry, but it will not be a quiet flow of tears, but an outpouring of grief I will not be able to control, and I'm not ready to put that on public display.

The years. The stories. The men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our Country. Unappreciated for too long. Perhaps that is what I cannot get over... the vast unappreciation that the citizens of this Country had for so long... for the men and women who sacrified their lives... FOR US.

These are my thoughts on Memorial Day. The past... the present... and wondering of the future.

Next year I will find a place for me to attend a Memorial Day service. It was Memorial Day five years ago that started me blogging.

Memorial Day was my catalyst.

The holiday that holds my heart.

Posted by Boudicca at May 25, 2009 08:14 PM

I went to a concert today at an outdoor amphitheater. All day I've thought about how thankful and lucky I am/we are. And when the band came on stage, they had everyone stand and remove their hats and the band sang The National Anthem. And probably at least 5-6 times, they thanked the men and women who have died for our freedoms.

I am used to this when going to see shows on base in the past. But being in the city, in a packed amphitheater, I was glad they took their position on the stage as an opportunity to share their appreciation and remind others to as well.

It was just nice to see.

Posted by: Sissy at May 25, 2009 09:42 PM

Like you, I come from a long line of family who have fought. Husband, father, grandfather, uncles, cousins, great uncles, great grandfather.... I could go on. As far as I have seen, all of my relation came home, as well; though some died at home from effects of the war years later.

When we were in London (2003) we went behind the pulpit at St. Paul's Cathedral. There is a beautiful WWII memorial to the fallen US soldiers there, who gave their lives to protect Britain & Europe. It's amazingly moving.

Posted by: Jody at May 27, 2009 08:30 AM

Thanks for remembering. Wonderful post! I remember I was on a March of Dimes walk-a-thon near Pusan, S. Korea in 1974 when a very old Korean Grandmother came up to me (me, being obviously an American soldier)with tears streaming down her face. I didn't understand. The Korean soldier I was with told me she was thanking me for all that the Americans had done for her and her country during "the war". All I could do was bow deeply. I will never forget that lady nor those who "gave all" in that strange and foreign land.

Posted by: JihadGene at May 27, 2009 09:33 AM

i know exactly what you mean about the korean memorial... it's my favorite. and i know what you mean about the wall too.

the first time i was ever introduced to the wall was a travelling replica that came to orlando when i was very young. my mom took me and my brother and, though i really didn't know what it was or why we were there, i can still see her falling down on her knees and crying after finding the name of her former fiance.

i've been to the real wall twice and have seen similar heartache both times. it's gut-wrenching and i cry like a baby, though i don't know any of those names myself.

Posted by: arcanai at May 27, 2009 09:48 AM