Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Memorial Day

Our family celebrated Memorial Day on Monday in much the same way that I have celebrated it for as long as I can remember. We put on our red, white and blue and attended services at Albin Cemetery and Wesley Chapel Church.

The kids in their patriotic best.

From way before my time, the women of Wesley Chapel have made bouquets of peonies, irises, and whatever else is in bloom to decorate the veterans' graves. Before the church service, we take the bouquets and follow the color guard into the cemetery. The veterans' graves are marked with flags, and a bouquet is placed on each grave.

Mackenzie and Elijah wait to carry their flowers to the cemetery.

The procession follows the American Legion color guard.

Elijah looks for a marked grave.

After the flowers are placed, the American Legion firing squad shoots the traditional three rounds, followed by Taps.

That is my uncle and two cousins in the color guard. My brother, grandfather and another cousin have also served in the color guard at this service in years past.
After this ceremony, we enter the church for a small program.

Elijah recited "A Nation's Strength" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not gold, but only man can make A people great and strong. Men who, for truth and honor's sake Stand fast and suffer long. Brave men, who work while others sleep, Who dare while others fly, They build a nation's pillars deep And lift them to the sky.

Mackenzie sang "God Bless America" accompanied by Nana on the piano.

Katie played "When the Caissons Go Rolling Along" and dedicated the song to her brother Michael in Baghdad. That made me cry a little.

Then my uncle reads the roll call of deceased veterans buried in Albin Cemetery, and those who were part of the Wesley Chapel community who are buried in other parts of the nation, dating back as far as the Mexican War. I confess that as a child, I found this part of the service to be incredibly boring. As I've grown older, however, I am fascinated and humbled at the names of these men. Ordinary men from an ordinary town like Newman, who answered an extraordinary call from their nation. Some didn't even get to come home for their final resting place. Several are buried in places like Andersonville, Georgia, Stone River, Tennessee, and even one who went down with his ship. I've listened to these names for thirty plus years now, and I've heard both my grandfathers added to this list.

I know for many people, Memorial Day is Race Day, or a day for cookouts and ballgames. There's nothing wrong with those fact they are part of what makes life in America so precious. We can gather with our family and friends in peace and safety--because of those we honor on Memorial Day.

I am so thankful that my parents took me to the cemetery every year on Memorial Day to teach me the reason for the holiday. I am sure there were years when I'd have preferred to do something else, something more "fun." I am thankful to all the American Legions and VFW's that organize services every year so that I can bring my children and teach them, even when only a handful of people attend. They are deserving of so much more respect than they are given.

I am also thankful for the families those men left behind, for the sacrifices they made in sending one they loved off to fight for our country and preserve a way of life for myself and my family.
I'm sure this is because earlier this year I sent someone I love dearly off to a war on the other side of the world.

And especially thank you to all the service men and women who have given so much for a nation that sometimes does not even seem to notice or care. Forgive us for our short memories. It is because you have done your jobs so well that we can afford to be so distracted.

And Michael, if you read this, thank you for doing your part to make the world safer for us. We love you and are so proud of you!!!


jamielynn3428 said...

Erin!!! You're making me cry. I miss Michael.

Debby said...

Hey Girl! I knew this is what you would be doing and was thinking of you! Your posts have been precious! I have enjoyed reading them, but haven't had much time for commenting! You and Dan are doing a great job! And Guess what!?! That's right -- I'm prego! YAY!