Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day Thoughts

I think I have told this story before but it wasn't in blog format.  Every year, as Memorial Day approaches, I'm reminded of this event.  Surprisingly, given the fact that my son is no longer here, the memory isn't painful but pleasant.  It's something Christopher and I did together that meant far more to me than it did to him at the time. I carry it with me now.

In May of 1992, when Christopher was 7 years old, we lived in Leavenworth, Kansas.  Since I worked for the federal government, Christopher got to go to school on Fort Leavenworth.  He came home one day that May with a flyer from the school inviting people to come to the base the Saturday before Memorial Day and help place American flags in front of the grave markers in the national cemetery on Fort Leavenworth.

Being prior military myself all I could think of was "What an honor to be able to show respect and gratitude to the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives for us all."  I jumped at the chance.

That Saturday morning dawned somewhat cool but sunny.  We drove over to the cemetery where we found about 100 other volunteers and boxes upon boxes of small (8x12) plastic flags on sticks waiting to be planted.  I don't remember the exact instructions but I believe they told us to place on flag in the ground 12 inches from the headstone (it may have been 10) and centered.  And every stone in the cemetery was to get one.  I don't know how many headstones there were in 1992 but in 2005 (the only statistics I can find right now) there were 22,679 people interred there.  I have no idea how many people they bury every year but I'm guessing there were at least 10 to 12 thousand markers at the time.

Everyone was given a bundle of flags and a row to do.  When you ran out of flags you went back for more. When you finished a row you went on the the next one.  It took most of the morning to place all the flags in front of all the headstones but with each completed row the cemetery took on a different, more patriotic and reverent look.  And when I stepped back and looked at the entire scene, it was beautiful.  All of us, including Christopher, were pleased and proud to be a part of something so wonderful.  It was such a small effort on our part to say thank you to those deserving people who gave so much for us.

I have this great memory to look forward to every May.  I'm still very proud of what we did that day and if I ever get the opportunity to do it again I will.  It is a privilege to be able to pay homage to those who died in service to us all.

Wishing all of you a happy Memorial Day and hoping, at some point  in the day, you stop and contemplate its meaning and its depth.  Thank you, once again, to all who have sacrificed their lives in service to our country and thank you to all veterans who are still alive and to those who are still serving.  America would not be America without you.

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