It’s here again. Memorial Day, 2023.
I always called my Uncle Gerry on Memorial Day to thank him for his service. He died a few years ago, and I miss making that call. When I was speaking with him one Memorial Day years back he asked me to take a moment that day and think about the men (and women) who gave their lives for their country over the centuries. To stop what I was doing and really think about them. Centuries, he said. It gave me a moment of reflection. I do it every year now.
Uncle Gerry was in Korea, and while he never spent a lot of time talking about it, it clearly shaped much of his life. It took his hearing, even though he pretended his hearing was fine. He was partially deaf from the airplane engines that roared in his head day after day in those years long ago. He was never a complainer though, and rarely spoke of what he gave up, or the nightmares he once told me he sometimes had.
He told me that day on the phone that friendships like those made in the heat of battle are hard to replicate. I am not exactly sure what that means, having never served myself, but I think that what he meant was when you don’t know if today is a death day for yourself or your best buddy next to you, and that those beside you in the airplane, or on the ground, might make the difference between life and death and vice versa, there is a bond that can’t be replicated in back yard cook outs, or presentation pitches made as a team in corporate America. Let’s be real. The risk-reward quotient is not something we can relate to from the safety of our own country’s shores.
Last Memorial Day, I wrote about the flags in Arlington Cemetery and how the military patrol Arlington making sure none of those flags stand at anything other than perfect posture. But today, this year, it’s not about the flags, which seem to have lost some of their meaning for those on my side of the political aisle. In searching for some inspiration, I came across this quote.
We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them. -Francis A. Walker
So, this year, I come to praise my uncle and those who served with him, before and after him, and those to come in the years ahead. He was not a perfect man my Uncle Gerry, but he was a great American and patriot. I thank him again here for his service.