We have our times of great joy and thankfulness that we spend with loved ones close to us. In these times of joy we prioritize what is important in our lives and for many it is the renewed bonding, friendship and love that cement lives and relationships. As a nation we spend vast amounts of money on these holidays to make them special and remembered.
In our often very busy lives as a society we lose our perspective from time to time. The events lately that seem to rivet us back to the reality of our world come in the tragedies we face, personally and as a nation. In times of peril we seek out comfort in our own ways, looking to put reason and why. We are a strong society and we always move forward, trying not to forget but as we settle back into our lives and routines we do forget.
One holiday that should be held sacred is Memorial Day. This day was set aside not for the three day weekends, travel plans and cookouts. Memorial Day was christened as a day of honor to those who have stood up through our history to meet the threats that faced our nation and freedoms. This is a day for reflection and remembrance of hero’s deeds and lives lost. The term hero is applied to all who serve and have served medals or not.
War movies fiction or reality based, while entertaining do not qualify as a way to spend Memorial Day. Over the years Hollywood has done its best, and sometimes worst, to make movies depicting war to be as real as possible. We have all seen just how impressive special effects have become in the attempt to shock audiences. Movies like The Sands of Iwo Jima and Saving Private Ryan conveyed some of the harsh realities and glimpses of what war can be like. I can tell you from the combat vets I have talked to including my father, that being in actual combat, or witnessing an atrocity, goes right to your soul. Your youthful innocence is sucked right out of you, and that is something you can never get back. The silver screen cannot do justice to that moment, for it is felt not seen.
The people who volunteered to go fight, or were drafted and did their duty, or joined in peace time to stand guard over us, willingly put their lives on the line for their country. Some got to stay in the states and help strengthen our military branches. Some got deployed all over the world being gone from family and friends for months and sometimes years. These people stood at the ready to be our first line of defense. Our military has also been all over the globe helping with world tragedies, and in these cases were it not for our military the loss of life would have been much greater.
The men and women who have gone and fought bear scars that go way deeper than what we see on the outside. There are those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us by giving their lives so we cannot just live, but enjoy and enrich our lives. Just think about that. Let it sink in….. People GAVE their life so you can have yours! That is a gift of ultimate proportions.
The way we give back is like Tom Hanks said at the end of Saving Private Ryan……”EARN THIS.” We have to live everyday earning what they laid down for us. That is a powerful thing, and you don’t have to be a religious person to appreciate that. These heroes’ did this for you, and to not treat that gift with the utmost reverence is an injustice.
Next Memorial Day go watch a veteran’s parade, wave and smile at the vets proudly participating. Go help at a veteran’s cemetery, cleaning up graves, or doing whatever needs to be done. Help organize a parade, or celebration. There are all sorts of things that need to be done in communities all over America in preparations for honoring our vets.
If you want to do one of the best things you can, go to a vet’s home or hospital and volunteer some of your time letting an ole timer tell you some stories. You really want to see something that will give you great joy? If you are ever lucky enough to hear a story told by a real combat vet, watch in their eyes as they transport themselves back to younger years and times of adventure. I guarantee it will warm your heart, and you will remember the story, but more importantly you will remember the person for the rest of your life. We have younger vets recently home who need the same thing, many are missing limbs or deep emotional scars. They need to know their time fighting for us is appreciated.
This is one day…..just one day of our lives to pay respect to the people who protected us, went without sleep, went hungry, and were thirsty, got shot at, bombed, saw detestable and ghastly things so we didn’t have to. They lost friends, their innocence, endured freezing cold and boiling heat. Some lost their souls. Is it too much to ask that one day out of the year we put down our work, toys, and arguments, to spend a day remembering the best of our society……….our military veterans.? I think it is the LEAST we can do.