Friends and Legion Comrades,
Wishing you each a memorable and happy Memorial Day. Please read my comments below which I delivered during the Ashby Ponds Memorial Day Celebration event this morning.
Tag Greason, our fellow Post member, joined me as our guest speaker and delivered a moving monolog about how military training is designed to build leaders of character and integrity. They can, are doing so presently and did serve in many callings or areas beyond the military; and today, often because of those traits, we remember those who have passed on.
Looking forward to seeing you all soon!
Memorial Day means different things to Americans; for some, it’s the beginning of summer, or a travel opportunity, a family barbeque, or a three day weekend with promises of fabulous sales at every store, mall or outlet.
But we here today know that on Memorial Day, in particular, we honor all those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of our United States or served in our Armed Forces honorably and have now passed on. Our ceremony today especially honors the 89 deceased Ashby Pond veteran residents whose names are listed in your program.
The practice of honoring those who died in war and service to their country, state or Nation can be found throughout history for thousands of years. In the United Sates it is not clear when or where the first Memorial Day — originally called Decoration Day — took place. Many cities and towns lay claim to the birth place of Memorial Day. What is known is that Memorial Day was borne out of the civil war and a desire to honor our dead servicemen and women. In 1868, General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed May 30 as Decoration Day, the purpose of which was to decorate the graves of comrades who died during the civil war. Today, we embrace the memory of all the brave men and women veterans who served in our Armed Forces to preserve our freedom and rights — as decreed by our Founding Fathers through our Constitution and Bill of Rights — from the war dead of the Revolutionary war to present veterans of Southwest Asia and the Global War on Terror.
I’d like to share with you this morning, a letter to the editor printed in the Washington Post of May 23, 2014. The letter was written by US Army Lieutenant Colonel Mike Jason. Most of what follows is his original letter, but I have shaped it to reflect a bit more widely what I, and many Veterans, past and present, feel about Memorial Day. It’s entitled: ‘Charlie Mike’ on Memorial Day.
It started like it always does. A well-meaning fellow American wished me a “happy Memorial Day .” Every year, however, it stops me in my tracks. Hours after such a greeting, I come up with a good zinger in reply; but when it happens, I can think of nothing.
I don’t have the energy to be angry anymore. I was angry a few years ago–over a decade-plus of war, deployment and loss. When those deaths were new, my feelings were sharper. I took offense at every pop-culture event that did not honor my friends. In 12 months, I lost three close friends and colleagues, two within 72 hours of each other. Memorial Day will hurt.
But the moral indignation I felt in years past seems childish now. For all the debate on the meaning of the weekend, no feeling can compare with the emotions of those who will pause to remember loved ones: the fathers, mothers, husbands, wives and children they will never see and hold again. The Gold Star families. This is their holiday. As we say in our family when things go badly, you are not allowed to be more upset than the person the bad thing is happening to. We do not get to be more upset than the Gold Star families.
So this Memorial Day, like many of my fellow veterans, I will surround myself with family and friends. We will enjoy the end of winter and the arrival of warm weather. I will self-medicate — a little — with an extra beer or two and try to live my life to the fullest as best as I can. We will do this for our friends who no longer have that opportunity.
Then, as the evening wears down, there will come that moment when the lump in my throat becomes so large that I cannot breathe anymore. At that moment, I will find a spot far away from everyone. I will remember the metal POW/MIA remembrance bracelet I wore for many years on my wrist; I will look up at the stars
— and cry unashamedly.
Many of us vets wonder whether we could have done more, why it wasn’t us and what we could have done differently. Could we have trained better? Could we have gone right and not left? We will beat ourselves up until we have no more questions, no more scenarios to play out. We will wipe our eyes and listen to those friends above, in the stars, tell us simply and clearly: “Charlie Mike” — continue mission. And then we will rejoin family and friends and, in honor of fallen buddies and their families, get on with it — Charlie Mike; and have a “happy” Memorial Day.