Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

I have a policy with all the holidays that I try to do at least one thing that day that will teach my son (and remind me) what the holiday is supposed to really be about, rather than all the commercial and food (and usually alcohol as well) traditions that modern American culture has developed around most official celebrations.  So this morning, I took my son to Cary's Memorial Day observation at the nearby cemetery where his relatives (through his father's side) are buried.

Now, I'm about as bleeding heart liberal as you can get, but I LOVE things like this, even though they tend to be more commonly associated with a more conservative point of view.  My tears started flowing as soon as I heard the first of the military-related anthems ("Anchors Away," or whatever the official name of the Navy song is) playing over the speakers.  So many things can make me cry at an event like this--the clean-scrubbed Boy Scouts leading the Pledge of Allegiance, the hundreds of people gathered to remember the meaning of the day, the elderly men struggling to get up from their chairs but whose sharp salutes as the flag goes by attest to their prior service in the military, and the always heart-wrenching playing of Taps.

This ceremony always is well attended by members of organizations like the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Daughters of the American Revolution, as well as by local politicians.  We had representatives of the Cary Town Council, three local state representatives, and our U.S. Congressman, David Price (most of whom, I must say, attend year after year after year).    They all give authentic, heart-felt, yet pithy speeches on sacrifice, on honor and respect, on courage and responsibility, and on our fundamental American principles and values.  It is not really a time for politics, but for remembering the people who have served and struggled and sometimes died fighting for their beliefs in our country and our culture.

This year was particularly meaningful, however, because my father-in-law, who was a World War II veteran who served at Normandy, among other battles, died this past summer, and was buried by his ancestors in the cemetery where the ceremony was taking place.  Grandaddy would never really talk about his experience in the war much, so I think it is hard for my son to imagine how significant it is to live through a battle like the invasion at Normandy (how could he?  I feel like, even as an adult, I didn't begin to get it until I saw the movie "Saving Private Ryan" and could visualize what it was like being there).

I hope my son never has to serve in a war, but I also hope he never loses his respect and admiration for those who have.

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