Memorial Day

Anything military always makes me teary-eyed. I love watching the videos of American soldiers coming home after being deployed. It’s heartwarming to see them reunite with their families. I love watching the motorcycle rides parading down the highway to honor those who have served our country. Yesterday, we pulled to the side of the road to allow them to pass and to show our support.

It’s amazing what these vets have done for our country. I think about my uncles, my dad, and my brother who have passed on. They were proud to have served our country. And I think about my son who has been deployed three times, putting himself in danger and making sacrifices along the way.

And not to forgot all others who have served and continue to serve…I thank you for your service. My heart goes out to the parents who have had sons or daughters who did not come home. One in particular that I’m thinking about today is an EOD who served with my son. He will never be forgotten.

Vandenberg Memorial

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In Their Shoes

I’ve drafted a story for my Trillium group that takes place during the Gettysburg Address. As I researched the time period, I thought about the women who stayed behind to care for the farms while their husbands, sons and brothers enlisted to fight their cause. How each day they wondered if they would ever see their men again. How they would survive if news came of their losses.

I also think of the men at Gettysburg who served. Were they scared under their bravery? Were they forced to enlist without an understanding of why they were fighting? Were they courageous and determined to win for their side? Were they in it for the rush? Were they thinking of honor when they died?

From battles before Gettysburg to this day, we have had men and woman who have served and died to protect our country’s freedom. We will never know what it’s like being in their shoes—to know their thoughts, feelings, or reactions when dodging bullets or seeing someone attack them with the intent to kill. How they took their last breath.

They are our heroes. They fought for freedom. They made sacrifices for their families and country. They didn’t hide but took on their responsibilities because they knew what was important.

My thoughts are with those who have died while serving and to their families. For each one, they deserve at least one day. Happy Memorial Day!

Memorial Day – Remembrance and Respect

I hope everyone had a chance to remember and respect those who died while serving our country today. I always get emotional when I see volunteers who help honor the fallen. At one point in time, the soldier had been a son or daughter, a husband or wife, or a brother or sister. When that soldier died, other lives felt that loss. Grief, pride, fear, and duty rolled into one.

Nowadays, Memorial Day is a weekend event that celebrates the fallen, veterans, a three-day weekend, and the beginning of summer. Just remember the true meaning of the day. Take a minute to think about what you have now and how it could have been if the soldiers had not fought for freedom during the Civil War, WWI, or WWII. Think about the fear the soldier felt when moving forward in an unknown mine field or having to dodge gunfire.

Let’s just hope that one day all wars will end and we can live in peace. Maybe that’s a prayer that could be said as well while we remember the fallen. May 30th is the original day of observation that was set back in 1868. If you didn’t have a change to observe the day at 3 p.m. today, please do so on Thursday.

Lesson Learned: Bravery never ends for those who serve.

My brother died less than a year ago to lung cancer. The cancer was typical of vets exposed to Agent Orange or asbestos. He was in the Marines, stationed in Hawaii, when he traveled by ship (with asbestos in the walls) to bring back other Marines still over in Vietnam at the end of the war. He also remembered being near the orange containers on land.

Mike was diagnosed with cancer in November, 2010. For about a year (previous to that) he had complained about his shoulder hurting. He worked on boats and motors, thinking he injured himself due to work. My nephew, his son, finally convinced him to go see a doctor. After tests, we found out he had Stage IV lung cancer. At first we thought his cancer was from years of smoking; however, this cancer formed on the outside of his lungs, not inside his lungs. He had the same symptoms as other vets whose cancer was confirmed as an after effect of the war.

For Mike, the cancer was already in his bones, eating at his spine. Chemo and radiation worked to shrink the cancer but only enough to give him some relief. Not enough for hope as the cancer continued to grow. In June of 2011, he went into hospice care. Not long after, he was paralyzed from the waist down.

Every time we (family and friends) went to visit him, we’d have to take him out for a smoke, which turned into three or four cigarettes based on how long we could stay for a visit. There was no smoking in the building where he stayed, and the nurses couldn’t take their time bringing patients out for a smoke. But for Mike, going outside was a must. He loved hearing the leaves rustle in the wind, seeing the clouds roll by, and feeling the rain on his skin. He watched the rabbits play and hide in the bushes. I wished I had more time with him. That he could have spent one more time doing what he loved most – fishing.

Mike died August 11, 2011, at the age of 55. He wanted a party to celebrate his life and not mourn his death. I think he would’ve liked the bar chosen for his ‘party’, the food served, and the laughter of sharing Mike stories.

At his grave, the Vietnam Vets, Chapter 470 from Anoka, MN, provided a small service and a 3 rifle volley to pay final respect to one of their fellow vets. Their service will stay in my heart forever. A discarded shell from one of their volleys sits in my printer’s tray with a picture of my brother. That shell gives me honor to know he served our country. His efforts were braved years after his time in service.

Happy Memorial Day to all those who served and continue to serve our country.