25 May, 2009

Memorial Day: Remember!

Today is Memorial Day here in America, but the sad truth is that for most Americans it is simply a "holiday", a day off work or school. It's the kickoff to summer. BBQ's will be working in full force, parks will be filled with millions around the nation, and families will hold reunions. For millions, it's another excuse to party until they drop. For some, it's just another day.

I, myself grew up in a family that marked this day annually as the day that a great number from our church held an annual picnic and cookout at Beaver Dam State Park in Plainview, IL. It was always a great day of friends, fun and food. It typically meant the first sunburn of the summer. We ate and played volleyball until it was too dark to continue on. For years, this WAS Memorial Day. I am ashamed to admit it, but as a youth, into my teens and even after graduating high school, I had no concept of what Memorial Day was really even about. Ironically, it was during my time in prison that I made this discovery. It was there in prison that I met some grissly old veterens who asked for and received permission from the warden to have a ceremony in the yard. It was only a few minutes long, but while being jeered and taunted by the anti-war men, the mulim men and others who just hated America, these men spoke briefly about their time in the military, watching some of their closest friend sacrificing their lives and how that even living in prison they were so blessed to be Americans and that they would never forget the sacrifice their friends and brothers paid for our country with their own blood. For the first time in my life, I looked on the American flag with deep respect and these old men became heroes in my life. Those few moments in the yard of the prison had a profound impact on my life that still lives on after all these years. I a couple of hours, my family will jump in the van and head downtown to watch the annual Memorial Day parade. I love the antique cars and tractors that will be there. I love seeing my girl marching in the parade. But the highlight for me is when a bunch of old guys come by in their uniforms. Some of them will be marching, some too old now to keep up so they will be riding on a flatbed truck or trailor. Those men and women are my heroes. If you look, I can promise you tears will well up in my eyes as they come by. The hardest part is when the family members come by holding pictures and signs of their sons who have died in Iraq. My heart breaks for them, and I for one am glad these families will come out march in this parade to honor their sons and family members. It brings it all back to rememberance that Memorial Day is a day set aside for our nation to remember those who gave their life for this nation and the freedoms we possess. Ironically, in that same parade today will be the same group that is there marcing in every parade, protesting the war. The are just too ignorant of the fact that those wars fought are what gave them the freedom to protest the war. It's sad they cannot see this.

Today, many of you will be firing up the grill, going to picnics, spending time with family... and all that is ok; it really is. But I hope you will take a moment to remember those who gave their life fighting for our nation, giving us the opportunity to have the freedom to party, if you will.

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