Memorial Day 2012.

It’s come again. The day when we honor our fallen as a nation.

That sums up my feelings pretty precisely. I’ll spare you the screed about mattress sales, car sales, liquor store events, and special discounts on patio umbrellas this “holiday” weekend. I take the holiday and view it as  Holy Day. I spend this weekend honoring my comrades. I understand why many don’t “get” the day or what it means to people like me, but it still galls me that far too many view it as an opportunity to get in an extra round of golf and nothing more.

I have friends who went out and never came back. Friends and colleagues who died as a result of what they did for this country. I’m counting those lost to suicide and depression from the stress and strain of the lives we led on active duty as having fallen in the line of duty. The list of the fallen I know is growing far too rapidly. It started with two classmates in the Navy over 25 years ago who crashed on the deck of a carrier, skidded over the edge and were never recovered, and hasn’t ended yet. I like the video posted above, but it neglects the Cold War. Many brave men died in that conflict on forgotten outposts and in silent combat far from the publics’ eyes. Lest we forget, we won that war, defeating the monsterous evil that was the Soviet Union.

Monday I will get up early, go and have breakfast at Mickey’s and then head home to shower, shine my boots, and put on my jacket and tie. I will proceed to Resurrection Cemetery and lead the military service after the Catholic Mass. I consider it an honor to be allowed the opportunity to speak on behalf of my comrades to the assembled people.

Please don’t misunderstand me, but Monday is not the day to honor the memory of your Grandmother Alice who never served in the military. Do that on her birthday or the anniversary of her passing. Alice was undoubtedly a fine woman but she’s not the reason for the day. If you would like to get a flavor of what the day is about take a trip to a local military cemetery. Gaze out at the rows of uniformly spaced white stones that represent marching legions of defenders fallen in defense of our liberties. If that’s not possible geographically, head to your nearest cemetery and look for a military headstone. There’s lots of them out there, usually plain vanilla with name, rank, branch of service, etc.

Take a minute to look for the ones where they passed away during a period of conflict, usually as a young man or woman between 17 and 40 years of age. Give them a moment’s reflection and consider who they might have been, and the fact that they gave their life so that we may live our lives in freedom.  They were once alive, young, vibrant, and looking to the future. They trained and went forward when ordered to do so, many of them volunteers. All of them, even the ones who were scared to the core of their being, were brave beyond measure. They saw their friends go down around them and kept on going until they paid the ultimate sacrifice as well.

I suggest that this weekend you spend ten minutes in quiet contemplation of what these warriors gave to preserve our nation. And then go online to a reputable military charity and make a donation so that the living have a bit of comfort in their service. I annually donate to a charity this time of year to honor my comrades. A few of the places that I spend my coin are listed below. Each of them is a reputable charity with a good record.

God bless those who have fallen.  God bless those who serve.

Recommended Charities:

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