The bomb blasted its way through the bunker. Sandbags twisted their way through the air, landing askew on the bunker or trench’s floor. Sand oozed from the bags mixing with the already muddy muck on the floor. Men scrambled to plug the hole, trying to shield themselves against the onslaught of enemy fire. The sounds of war made their way to the ears of those men in the bunker. They were there defending the American way of life. On that, and many other calamitous days, perhaps for one of those men, posterity was unfolding in another scene ten thousand miles away.
The room was sterile and the lights were bright. As the woman lay panting in the throes of yet another contraction, the doctor sat in the ready position in front of the stirrups urging the woman to push harder. With as much adrenalin flowing through her veins as was perhaps flowing through the man’s in the bunker, her final push resulted in the child being ushered into that sterile, brightly lit, and starkly cold hospital delivery room. At that moment, though they were miles apart, that child became the living essence of his parent’s union, and somehow perhaps, even in their separation by miles, they were together.
War is tragic. It separates, destroys and changes things forever. But it also unifies in such a way as to create relationships and friendships that last a lifetime. Sometimes even more than the husband-wife relationship that is based on love, tenderness and protection, the relationships formed in war forms a bond that is maintained through the years by remembrance. Trench, foxhole, jungle or desert experiences forge bonds that change two people in such a way as no other experience can. During those experiences when lives are in peril, spirits and souls become entwined in such a way as to mold into those person’s minds the essence of oneness with a memory that will last a lifetime. Is it any wonder that those who have had such experiences stand tall and proud as they remember and mourn the loss of their comrades?
There are others, however, who may not understand the significance of such a remembrance. To them it may be the sales at the local department stores, or the parade on television. To some it may be that it is a holiday and a day off from work to go to the beach or have a picnic. It may just simply be another day on the calendar. To all of us it should be a day for honoring all of those who have given their all to make our lives more free.
Memorial Day is a day to pause and think of all whose lives have been given in sacrifice to ensure that our lives can remain free. I have a picture in my living room, "Reflections", depicting an older civilian who was a soldier in Vietnam, standing with outreached arm with fingers touching the Wall with thousands of names. From inside the wall two or three young fellow soldiers are standing with one reaching up from inside the wall with outstretched arm touching the fingers of the one standing outside the wall. From time to time I stop and gaze at the picture and am emotionally touched at the scene. The closeness to those with whom they shared the experience is a powerful relationship. That is something that only they have that none of the rioters at that time or anyone else missing that experience has.
So if you see someone pausing on the sidewalk, bowing his head for a minute or two on that day, or someone looking up to a waving flag for a moment, or a man removing his hat at the passing of the colors during a parade you may be watching, just watch for a moment and remember. What you may be witnessing is a person whose memory is that of an exploding bomb, or a best friend’s life ebbing away as he holds him in his arms, or a wife who has lost a husband, or the child of a Mom who gave her best for the war effort back home, or a woman who has gallantly fought in one of our more recent wars. But as you watch, remember too, that all of those men and women who have sacrificed their lives have done so in order to keep all of us free.
Our only true and just response to all of them, both fallen and those still living, is, "Thanks for your service."