Grateful on Memorial Day
Every year, for the past three Memorial Days, we have been reminded by Sen. Jack Barnes Jr. that “Memorial Day is not the beginning of summer, it is one our nation’s most sacred holidays.”
You know what? Jack is right.
Memorial Day is not a summer kickoff or “sales event;” Memorial Day is the day that a grateful nation sets aside to honor and remember the 1,196,554 sons and daughters who gave their lives for our freedoms.
I remember when I was a child, on Memorial Day my father would load eight of us nine kids into the family station wagon to go “pay our respects.” It seemed odd to me that while other families were hosting parties and opening camps, we were jammed into a station wagon driving to cemeteries across New England.
Back then, I honestly did not understand the significance of what my father was trying to teach us. Being a young child, I also did not grasp why my father lingered silently, and by himself, at the grave site of his best friend, who never really returned home from Vietnam.
However, like many veterans, there have been many years that have passed since the innocence of my youth.
On far too many occasions have we stood in formation and rendered the final, gut wrenching “four-second salute” while “Taps” played in the background.
Far too many times have we heard the military chaplains pray over the flag-draped caskets of our brothers and sisters.
And far too many times, even years after these events, do we find ourselves still fighting back tears for those who never made it home, in body or in spirit.
Each year when Memorial Day comes around and corporations try to distract us from the true meaning of this days, I find myself feeling:
Grateful to my father for the cramped rides in the station wagon so many years ago,
Grateful to patriots like Jack Barnes who stand tall to ensure the fallen are not forgotten,
And Most Importantly, Grateful for the sacrifices of those who never made it home and the freedoms they provided.
I wish you all the same Grateful Memorial Day and hope that you find the time to honor those who we remember.
Joseph S. Ilsley