My day began with a solitary walk through my neighborhood, during an hour that usually is reserved for sleep or savoring the first cup of coffee or tea.  I had a fitful night’s sleep and decided that the best remedy was some fresh air and physical activity. So, I set out with no particular route in mind and focused on the cool breeze on my skin and getting in a good workout.  I may not have known where I was going, but I ended up where I needed to be.

My feet transported me to the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, a sacred space that is very familiar to me.  Today, though, the cemetery looked different, because today was different.  Today was part of the Memorial Day weekend.

While this weekend is synonymous with the kickoff of the summer season, backyard barbecues, and the end of the no white after Labor Day fashion rule, the flags flanking both sides of the long drive and the smaller flags adorning every gravesite reminded me that this weekend is about something more.  Much more. 

The white headstones and fluttering flags all looked the same, but the names and dates etched on each one reminded me that they were all different.  The men and women buried here ended up in the same place, but they were each individuals with stories I could only imagine.  These granite tablets provided a glimpse into those who rested there.  Some died as teenagers, while others had lived long lives.  Some had earned military honors and accolades, while others served without special recognition.  Some were buried alongside their spouse, while others were buried next to comrades.

Some of the headstones provided more than a name, rank, and dates of birth and death, and those are the ones that brought tears to my eyes.  Beloved mother.  Best friend.  Cherished father.  Brave soldier.  It was humbling to find myself at the final resting place of hundreds of men and women whom I did not know, yet who served our country to protect our freedoms, rights, and privileges.

They sacrificed their lives, leaving behind friends, families, hopes, and dreams, so, that we could enjoy ours.  While we celebrate a three-day weekend, others remember and mourn their loved ones.  Each headstone represents a person who lived and loved and who is missed.  They are gone.  Forever.  If that doesn’t make you put down your hotdog and beer, then, nothing will.

Memorial Day may be the designated day that we remember our fallen brothers and sisters, but really, every should be a day that we remember and honor them.  Honor and patriotism go beyond wrapping ourselves in the flag and reciting political rhetoric and patriotic platitudes.  We owe these heroes and those they fought for much better.

As this Memorial Day weekend continues, remember the men and women who gave their all for all of us.  May we each find positive ways to serve our country and the world and to be good citizens here and abroad.  It is our responsibility to ensure that they did not die in vain.  Gone, but not forgotten.

That’s another story . . .

Categories: That's Another Story

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