Today's post is a long one, but I hope you stick with me and read it all. Memorial Day is one of our most special days. Many consider it the start of summer--and hot dogs, potato salad and the likes are a traditional part of the day. That isn't what it is all about, however. Let me share with you my first awareness of the depth of emotion that comes with Memorial Day.
I was maybe seven years old, certainly no older and possibly a bit younger. My grandmother had allowed me to spend a week with her, without my siblings, and I was experiencing one of the best weeks of my young life. A parade was scheduled and the excitement was intense. I stood beside her and thought that everyone must have come out for this parade--the whole town. I was used to what I thought of as "my parade" at home. It involved zoo animals, marching bands, little cars and motorcycles ridden by Shriner's. I was anticipating the same here.
Someone said "Here they come!" and I waited. They did come, men in uniform, all manner of uniform and all ages. Some groups had many men and others a few. The crowd was silent except for applause and my young mind did not understand--where was the "fun" stuff? Why were there tears in so man eyes?
Quiet like I'd never experienced descended upon the crowd. An old soldier was being pushed down the center of the street and then toward the gazebo in the center of the park. His uniform was unlike any of the others. My grandmother stood silently, tears rolling down her cheeks and I took her hand, but she did not seem to notice--her eyes focused on the man in the wheelchair.
The men who had already passed were lined up on either side of the path leading to the gazebo and as the wheelchair passed, each man perfectly still and saluted. The old man's wheelchair reached the gazebo and, as he was turned to face the crowd, he saluted the men who lined the path.
People around me cried, some smiling through the tears. I did not know at that time what I was witnessing, but knew it was special--an important event. Later, my grandmother explained. The soldiers were men who had fought in various wars. Veterans they were called. It was these men (their were no women at that point-at least in that parade) who fought to give me freedom. It was how I was able to go to school and church and walk down the street and play in the park.
She explained to me that there were many more who had not come home from fighting--they had died trying to fight for me. I asked about the old man and found out he was the only one still alive in this small town who had fought in WWI. He was the only one left to represent those who had fought and died in that war. Several of her brothers had fought in that war.
I didn't fully understand then, but have gained understanding since. Today, on a Memorial Day a couple decades later, many more men (and women) have given their lives to allow me the freedoms I have--given you the freedoms you have. Let us all take time from our hot dogs and potato salad to remember these souls and give them our thanks.
I have some things I want to share with you today. The first is a wonderful blog that features a must-read tribute. Not all soldiers died in a war--but many face another kind of war, that of homelessness. Please stop by
when you leave here and read the wonderful post at The Invisible America.
Many of those soldiers who do return alive in body continue to fight a war called PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The war has never ended for these soldiers--it haunts their waking moments and follows them into sleep each night. A wonderful blog I often visit, can give you insight into these veterans. It is called PTSD, A Veteran's Perspective and is located here:
For a list of military memoirs, stop by:
and for a list of books divided by age, from the youngest children through adult, visit:
I would like to leave you with this video:
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