Twice a year, our country as a whole stays home from work to honor those who served for, fought for, and for some, died for, our country: Memorial Day and Veteran's Day . There is no mail, no garbage collection, no summer school. Few businesses are open. We BBQ and go to the beach, relax with family and friends, thankful for an extra day off where we don't have to use vacation time. This is all fine and dandy; I love participating in these events and plan to do so this year, but over the last couple of years, I have endeavored to pause for a moment on these days and remember why I have the day off.
War is controversial topic in our society today and perhaps, it has always been and will be. Should we or shouldn't we? Too much money or not enough money? Expand or decrease the size of our military? Heated debates fill the headlines and our ears during the evening news. And we get tired of it...tired of the same arguments, tired of the constant politcking, just tired of the same old same old...and we stop listening. We stop thinking about the men and women who are overseas fighting for a reason we may not completely understand, we stop thinking about those who are still here in the states, training and preparing, we stop thinking about the young men who turn eighteen and have their name added to the draft list, and we stop thinking about those who have already been through this.
I am 26 years old and have seen two wars, the Gulf War and what is currently going on now, which, in my own ignorance, am not sure if it has been called anything but "what is going on in Iraq". I remember arguments for and against both of these wars and one thing that sticks out in my mind is my dad telling me that no matter what you believe about the war, you HAVE to support the people who are over there fighting. You have to. My dad is a die-hard Patriot. We have several American flags flying in our yard and several others inside our home. My dad hoisted a Britsh flag as well when Tony Blair and the British troops joined our fight against terrorism. I, like most of you, have relatives that fought in past wars: WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. I have friends now who are serving in the Navy, Air Force, and Air Force National Guard.
I had the chance to visit Washington DC about 3 years ago and was able to finally visit all the memorials I had read about in Social Studies and US History. I remember standing in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial reading the names of the soldiers depicted in that sculpture. I recognized one name that I had become familiar with as I helped my friend Lynn write out wedding invitations just a few weeks before. Right then, I called her and asked if she had a relative who had died on Iwo Jima and was in the raising of the flag picture. "Yeah, an uncle, or I guess he was really a great uncle". Rene Gagnon to be exact. Amazing how a personal connection, however, remote, can change your perspective about war.
So this Memorial Day, I challenge you to take a moment to make it personal. Send that friend of yours who is stationed in Iraq an email thanking him or her for serving our country, call up a relative who is a veteran and thank them. Be on the look out for older men wearing baseball caps telling of what war, what service they served in and go up to them and shake their hand. I recently had the opportunity to talk with some Blackhawk pilots who were stationed in Honolulu as my friends and I waited to be seated at a restaurant. When our buzzer went off, we got up and I turned around and thanked them for their service to our country. Well, maybe they thought I was just weird, but I was sadden to see the surprise on their faces when I spoke those words. Maybe, we just don't thank them enough.