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Memorial Day

May 30, 2011

Remembering, celebrating the lives and sacrifice of the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country, from the beginning of the history of this country to those eight men who died last week in Afghanistan, that’s Memorial Day Weekend.

Rolling Thunder - Arlington in the Background

Memorial Day – since moving to DC, it has meant Rolling Thunder, spending the Sunday at the Pentagon and listening to the roar of thousands of motorcycles revving up. Flags of all sizes flutter and wave, from the tiny hand held flags waved by the kids along the route; the enormous post flag flying from the crane over the start of the ride; and the house size flags streaming from the backs of bikes snapping and cracking over the roaring of the bikes.  Rolling Thunder;  riding past Arlington National Cemetery, over Memorial Bridge;  past the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the WW2 Memorial and the desolate WW1 Memorial.

It is moving to know that the reason for these thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of riders coming to DC isn’t to attend a political rally or a race or a display – but to remember those who gave their lives in the defense of their country, to remember those for whom the wars have never ended, to mourn with the families who have never found their loved one. It is also a time for the veterans to gather, to talk with their compatriots, to remember the buddy who didn’t make it home to her family.

The stories may be from different wars, but the emotions are the same; watching the lines at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the men in leather vests emblazoned with the names of their ship or the brigade touching the name of their buddy with tears running down their faces; the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are the honor guard for the Gold Star family members riding behind them this year – that is the true meaning of Memorial Day for us.



One Comment leave one →
  1. May 30, 2011 10:56 pm

    I never much viewed Memorial Day as a time for celebration. Honor, respect, grieving, yes, celebration, no. But, this year, this Memorial Day, resonated in a way it hasn’t before. And i can try to parse out why, but part of me isn’t even interested in doing that. All I know is that I woke up this morning at 05:30, feeling sad. Maybe it was reports of 7 more coffins coming home from Afghanistan, maybe it was worries about my milspouse friends with husbands over there who I wanted to reach out to and shelter and say don’t you watch this. Maybe, and I don’t know why precisely it was different today but it was, maybe it was that today, this morning, I looked at the pictures hung on my fridge of some of the troops killed since 2003. I look at them every day. I know these boys’ names, although I never met them. I recall them, and with much emotion, unlike all of the boys I went to high school with, to college, dated, loved and lost. Those boys, the ones who donned and died in a uniform, those boys I remember. I know their parents; I have been to the funerals; I have cried with their wives. I know the time, date location and circumstances of their deaths. I know of Sadr City, Fallujah, Watah, and other places that, had my husband never been deployed, would not even be google-worthy. And I got used to it. But today, when most of America was driving to campgrounds and figuring out what to throw on the grill, I was stuck – stuck in all kinds of memories of funerals and weeping moms, stuck in recalling pulling up the dad of a soldier at the gravesite, bringing him off his knees, holding him as he wept on my shoulder, feeling so ill-suited for the task. What could I possibly offer to make any of this okay? I was stuck in recalling how absolutely psychically naked was the mom of a soldier KIA, and how desperately helpless I was to stand before her, or any of them ,and make it okay, knowing that I could not, in this lifetime or any other. Today, I was reminded of the tale my father told me. Once. Just as his brother had told him, once, about the horror of what he had seen and done in Korea which I will not repeat here, now, or ever. There is a code, and some things cannot be shared. I remembered visiting my grampa, a WWII vet, dying, slowly and alone in a VA hospital in Montana. And i thought of my beloved husband who wept at the boots of his comrades, and will never tell me what really happened, and I am not mean or small enough to ask. for all of them, it was their war. And that, today, makes me sad.

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