For many people across this nation, Memorial Day means two things - the beginning of Summer and a three-day weekend. Nothing more and nothing less. But I am witness to the fact that this day, once known as “Decoration Day”, means something entirely different to many, many people.
I know that on this Sunday there are men in our county who arose, drank their cup of coffee and read their Sunday newspaper, and then prepared to once again do their duty for their country. From their closet they pulled out their khaki shirt and pants and ran a hand across the cloth, wondering if an iron was called for. They showered and shaved and combed their hair, and then donned their uniform - the uniform that sets them apart from the rest of us. Perhaps, as they were buttoning their shirt or arranging their black tie, they stood just a little taller, they squared their shoulders just a bit. As they fastened their belt they may have patted their stomach and wondered, “Who shrank these clothes?.” Next, they stepped into their military boots, wiggling their toes in the confines of shoes not often worn. Finally, they picked up the white helmet and the white gloves. Then they walked out their front door, heading for services in cemeteries all across the county.
But I wonder - before they walked out that door did they stop for a moment before a mirror and see themselves as men of the military, defenders of our freedom who had survived the rigors of war? Or did they see themselves as ordinary guys who just happened to have faded discharge papers amongst their mementos and a set of khakis hanging in the closet?
For all our sakes - and for the sake of those not yet old enough to grasp the meaning of the word “sacrifice” - I hope these men realize they are each far from ordinary! They heard the call and reported for duty, even when they knew it might mean a death sentence. They walked on the soil of foreign lands with a gun in their hand. They faced another human who wanted only to kill them. They saw the best and the worst of mankind. They sloshed through mud and muck, fought the cold and the heat, and shivered in the midst of battle. They learned the life-enduring importance of standing up and being counted, and counted on. They each have memories they have tried to forget and memories they never want to forget. And they lived to tell the story!
And because they lived, Memorial Day means they once more take up their gun and their position . Shoulder to shoulder they stand at attention, each man transformed by his uniform, yet familiar at the same time. With the bark of an order, they turn and fire the shots of honor. Then they wait to hear the words “At ease”. Two small words, but words that with their saying return these men to our world, the world of the ordinary. But only until next year… or until another fellow veteran is laid to rest.
I want to tell each veteran who stood before me Sunday “Thank you”. Not only for the time you gave this year, but for the time you served in battle many years ago. Each of you walked through a valley, through a jungle, across a desert, or over a mountain for me - and for all Americans. And that sacrifice should not be forgotten, and will not be forgotten.
And this year was very special - I had the unexpected honor of holding Roy Seller's hand during the ceremony. Even though he was sitting next to me in a wheelchair, I could see him so clearly beside his comrades, standing tall and proud in his uniform, holding firm the American flag. And by the touch of his hand and the tear on his cheek, I knew that was what he was seeing and remembering, too.
Boise City News