Many of us don't understand the significance of Memorial Day, and yet, if we go back in time, we realize the reason for having such a day is to honor those who fell in battle. It is more than just a day to honor the dead. It is a day reserved to honor men and women who gave everything they had in the pursuit of freedom. Not just for Americans, but people all over the world.
If you go to Hawaii you will see a cemetery filled with white grave markers. In Arlington, Virginia, is another large plot of land, filled with more white distinguishing symbols that marks the last resting place of a veteran, who either served in the military, or died in battle. In France there are other hallowed grounds, and in Belgium as well. All over the world there are graves filled with the remains of an American who died for worldwide freedom for the common man and woman. In the far reaches of the isolated Pacific, on small islands, there are more graves dotting the landscape as testament to the bravery, and the dedication a military person gives once they have sworn allegiance to their country. Sometimes we have to go into battle, and sometimes we die.
All my life the world has been embroiled in a war where people are being blown to bits, shot down or killed. The end result is the same, the fighting soldier is dead. Brought home in a box followed by a ceremony to honor the fallen warrior, and then the body is interred in one of those plots of land that mark places all over the world with the crosses, stars of David or plain white stone markers that are a memorial to those who absolutely gave it all because they were asked to by their country.
The madness never ends. The sorrow upon receiving the news, followed by the elaborate ceremonies and more grief, and then the burial; where one realizes the finality of what has occurred, is truly put to rest for eternity. It is in that moment as the coffin is lowered into the ground, we pause and understand with complete understanding, the loved one is gone forever. We are left with nothing more than a few memories, perhaps a long ago laugh or smile, some photographs, but little more.
We only have to reach back to yesterday to understand this on-going death and destruction is happening right now in a far-off land, where people who barely left the time of herding camels, or the archaic age of the Crusades, are bitterly fighting Americans, oftentimes to the death. Before that was Iraq, and Vietnam, Korea, World War Two, World War One, the wars fought against the American Indians, the great American Civil War, the Mexican American war and the War of 1812. We should also remember our own great war of the American Revolution, where a small country took on the super power of its day and fought them to a standstill for freedom to call our own shots. We took them on twice. All of those wars were fought by Americans who died either suddenly or slowly over many hours of agony. Many of those who died were far from their homes, and too many of them were left over there as a finality of their sacrifices.
To make the forfeiture of time with your friends and family, serving is sometimes a lonely ordeal, in and of itself, but many of us have done it. We seek no accolades for having served our country. Some of us like me are grandfathers, and after serving went on to have families, careers and enjoy the fruits of our labor, but a great deal of us never got to do any of those things. They were sent to their maker in the flower of their youth because they also were serving, and they were compelled in a fateful sudden moment to give up their lives.
I knew a few of those people. We partied together, double dated, and enjoyed those things that a friendship enriches us with. They never had the opportunity to enjoy a long productive life away from a war. They rest in their plots, and all that was, or will ever be for them, was lost in a terrible moment when their lives ended somewhere a long way from home, and their loved ones. They came home in a box. Some never came home at all but were buried thousands of miles away making it almost impossible for their loved ones to console themselves by visiting their graves on occasion.
When you observe this great holiday, please take a moment to remember it is a weekend dedicated to the dead who whether they wanted to or not, had the misfortune of relinquishing their lives for you. Please take a moment and remember their sacrifices. Without those brave men and women who put their lives on the line in an effort to protect freedom, and freedom loving people like you and I, we might all be wearing chains as we are lockstep and marched to some obscure work site to work for those who would enslave us for their own benefit.
As for me, I will take the first poured snifter of Brandy which I will dedicate to those no longer here. I will offer my gratitude to them, and I will pour it out on the earth where my friends and comrades rest as my symbol to those who cannot enjoy it with me any longer. For, they are lost to us all by their supreme sacrifice. What a shame to have lost so many young people who were taken from us in the efflorescence of their youth. As long as I live I will take the time to remember those even if I don't know their names. They represent the true meaning of what being an American is all about. Those who would give their all-in order for you and I to live free.
L Michael Rusin
Patriot, Father, Grandfather, Husband, Veteran, Author and Humble Teacher to those who need to hear the message
Copyright 2012, L. Michael Rusin All rights reserved. Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes in entirety, including this notice.