Monday, May 30, 2016

Reflection: Memorial Day Memories And Honoring The Fallen

Today across America families are gathering in city centers for concerts and parades or on area waterways for picnics and barbecues. They are gathering in CrossFit gyms to complete the "Murph" workout, or venturing out to local cemeteries for a time of remembering family members and friends who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of others by laying down their lives. Today is a holiday and a day of remembrance filled with a mixture of patriotism and reflection for some. For others it is a day off of work, a day for grilling out, and maybe the start of "vacation season" and the winding down of another school year. 

My earliest personal memories of Memorial Day are rooted in cemeteries. I can remember going with my grandpa, my dad, my mom, my brother and sister, and sometimes a couple of my uncles to tend a family grave plot in a larger cemetery about 20 minutes outside of the town where I grew up. We would drive out in an old pickup truck filled with lawnmowers and trimmers and us. We would cut the grass all around a what seemed at the time an infinitely large section of the graveyard. We would make these trips through the spring and summer, but in late May we would also lay out flowers and other tokens of remembrance for generations of ancestors.

I learned a lot during those care-taking times during my childhood. Some very old family and Shawnee cultural traditions were passed along to me--traditions that taught respect, honor, and service. We would never walk on graves, and we would never remove anything from the cemetery. In addition to certain etiquette around graves, we also made it a point to visit graves during the weekend of memorial day and to decorate the graves of all of our relatives with garlands, flowers, and flags--regardless of how those relatives left this world. Too seldom in our busy "modern" world do we take time to reflect and to remember all of those who have gone before us and wore down the paths over which we freely walk today. 

Although many uncles, great uncles, and older family members served, I was too young to know any who had made the ultimate sacrifice in combat. But, as I have grown older, my life has placed me in contact with a number of friends who have served in various capacities in our military. Again, thankfully, I have not lost any of my close friends in military combat, but I know many of them have lost loved ones in the line of service. Most of the year, we give very little thought to what our service men and women and the families of the fallen may be carrying all year long every year. Organizations like Carry The Load are helping to encourage us to take time to reflect on those who have fallen, their families, and their friends. 

Today, maybe you are traveling to visit a family grave plot, attempting a "Murph" workout, or maybe just enjoying a day away from the workplace. Regardless of the place this day may find you, may we each take at least a moment to honor the fallen and those who have gone before us. They deserve so much more than a moment, as do their families and friends, but even a moment of reflection is better than no reflection at all. May we each take a moment to hug those close to us, weep as appropriate, and fill our hearts with gratitude that we each continue to have the privilege of moving forward and ensuring that the ancient paths are free and clear for another generation.

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