Memorial Day

As a child growing up in the USA, I really just saw Memorial Day as another excuse to have a big family party.  The subject of my Uncle Ray (who served in WWII) would sometimes come up, and every once in a while we would visit his grave and lay flowers for him (not as often as the family would have liked, I think, but mainly because his grave was so far away from our house and traffic is insane in Chicago on Memorial Day).  But it was never really stressed what the holiday was truly for.

But then my sister (the beautiful woman in this picture) and my cousin both went into the military one right after the other.  My cousin enlisted in the Navy, and my sister (obviously) in the Army.  And suddenly holidays like Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day suddenly took on a new meaning.

I guess it’s like a lot of things – they just don’t really sink in until you have some sort of personal connection to it.  And when my sister got married to another soldier and he was deployed to Iraq, these things started to take on an even deeper meaning.  Especially when my sister would tell me how hard it was for her, not knowing if he was okay or even specifically where he was (he wasn’t allowed to tell her, for pretty obvious reasons).  When holidays like Memorial Day and Veterans Day would roll around, the meaning for them had become crystal clear.

My cousin is now out of the Navy, my sister is about to get out of the Army and is no longer married to that soldier (but about to get re-married to another one!), which makes my family much happier.  We respected their decisions to enter the military, but that didn’t stop us from worrying.

And in this day and age, with our troops in places that some of us don’t think they have any business being, I think this holiday deserves even more attention.  Because whether or not you agree with the decisions that the people in charge have made, the individual soldier doesn’t have a choice in where they’re told to go.  Being in the military isn’t just a temporary choice, it’s a career for many of these people.  They are trained to follow orders, regardless of whether they agree with those orders or not.  So phrases like “support the troops, not the war” are quite accurate, I think.  These are people who have volunteered to be there should our country need them.  For that decision alone, they deserve our support.

Remember them with respect and pride today.  They have done what most of us could not.  And they have done it willingly, with no reservations.

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