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Out of Gratitude for the Blessings of Freedom — Remember

Don't avert your eyes from the real purpose of Memorial Day.

by
Paula Bolyard

Bio

May 27, 2013 - 6:35 am
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Happy Memorial Day! Have you heard the greeting on TV or seen it on Facebook this weekend? It always bothers me when I see it because the word “memorial’ generally connotes something other than “happy” — or at least it ought to. I understand that most people who proffer the greeting do so perfectly innocently, wishing upon their friends a pleasant holiday weekend spent barbecuing or shopping for mattresses. But whenever I hear the flippant greeting, my mind goes back to the trip our family made to our local national cemetery last year on Memorial Day. We went there to visit the grave of my husband’s grandfather, Ivan Kerr, a WWII veteran who had marched across Europe during the Battle of the Bulge, and also to pay tribute to those who had paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

It was a gorgeous Ohio day with a cloudless blue sky and row upon row of grave markers decorated with small American flags, courtesy of the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. We arrived several hours after the official Memorial Day ceremony, after the crowds had dispersed. People were wandering around the cemetery, some looking like they had a purpose and others, like our family, reading the headstones and thinking about the individual lives and families and stories they represented. In the distance we heard a lone bugler playing “Taps.” There were no funerals or ceremonies going on, so we were left to wonder whether he played to honor a fallen friend or if he just played as a simple act of patriotism to pay tribute to all the fallen heroes, unknown to him, who lay beneath the tiny flags and white marble markers.

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All Comments   (10)
All Comments   (10)
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ack, Dia de los Caidos is Day of the Fallen.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In Spanish, Memorial Day is Dia de los Caidos. Something to remember, no?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Its also a time to remember those honorary colleagues who served as gallantly in war as any of our uniformed brothers andf sisters. For me and several other Marines, we honor our fellow Marine (Photo War Correspondent), Dickey Chapelle each year. She was a true leatheneck who held her own and was a genuine challenge to even the best and toughest marine. RIP my friend!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thank you, Paula,

We do need to open our eyes, cry our cheeks wet if we feel like it.

Thank you Trangbang, welcome home

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I want to commemorate as I have on other occasions Sgt. Robert Alton Brown KIA. In September 1968, Sgt. Brown went on an operation to the Oriental River A.O. in the Iron Triangle northwest of Saigon with Delta Co. of the 2/14th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division.
Sgt. Brown could have stayed back as he was soon going to Hawaii on R&R to meet his wife. Sgt. Brown chose to go because there were a number of green inexperienced troops who needed leaders. I was one of the new guys.
Sgt. Robbie Brown died assaulting a bunker complex, trying to rescue casualties. The place the battle was fought was a nondescript free fire zone, too marshy to have strategic value but it is forever hallowed by the blood of a brave man.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm glad all of us know got to see Sgt. Brown's name and read the story of his courage here today. God bless you for keeping this hero's memory alive.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Our heritage is not self-preserving. As Weldon admonished, it must be remembered, taught and passed along from one generation to the next. Unfortunately, to some degree, we have failed our forbears in this respect. We teach our children math, science and how to throw a ball but little about the great sacrifices made to create and preserve the country they live in and the way of life they have (perhaps) come to take for granted.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Excellent point. Most history curriculum is woefully inadequate in this respect.

And as Reagan said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Greetings:

Back in the summer of the last '68, I was doing my military service down in Texas, which, after the Bronx, is the place I'd most like to be from. For several months, I was assigned to the base's funeral detail. We would provide pallbearers and a rifle squad for those requesting military funerals in the local area.

Military-wise, it wasn't bad duty. On the days when we weren't scheduled for a funeral, we would spend several hours practicing our "drill & ceremonies" and a couple more squaring away our uniforms and equipment. On funeral days, we would head out as early as necessary on a 44-passenger bus, often in civilian clothes or else fatigues with our first-class uniforms and equipment in tow. Often we would change into our duty uniforms at the funeral home, once in the casket display room, or on the bus itself.

It being Texas and the Viet Nam war being in full swing, we often had several funerals a week to perform. There was a certain spectrum from the World War graduates through the Viet Nam casualties. The former might involve a local veterans' group and an afterward BBQ or such. The latter were somewhat more emotionally raw as most of us were facing our own deployments in the near future.

Two funerals of the latter sort have stayed with me through the years. The first was of a young Private First Class who had been MIA for several months before his remains were recovered. I was on the pallbearer squad that day and when we went to lift the casket, it almost flew up in the air. There was so little of the young soldier left that we totally overestimated the weight we were lifting and almost looked decidedly unprofessional.

The other was that of a Negro Specialist 4th Class. I was in the rifle squad that day. In the rendering of military honors, there is a momentary pause between the end of the (21-gun) rifle salute and the beginning of the playing of "Taps". It is a moment of profound silence in most cases. During that moment, the young soldier's mother gave out a yowl from the depths of her grief that so startled me that I almost dropped the rifle out of my hands. That yowl echoes within me still.

I'll readily admit that, as a result of my experiences, I became much imbued with a sense of duty and respect to and for our fallen. Hopefully, this year, when our media do their reporting they will show some of the same and let "Taps" be played out in its entirety. It would be nice for a change.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
11B,

Your story brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing and for your service.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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