I am amazed that we have cycled around to Memorial Day (what… already?). This holiday weekend is heralded as the official port to summer, regardless of the actual date of the summer solstice. Seasonal merchants wait for the big start to what will hopefully be a profitable eight weeks, kids see the light at the end of the tunnel to the school year, the neighborhood pools have had their covers rolled back to reveal their sparkling waters.
This morning, without saying a word, my husband put out the flags. We have two: The first, the American flag and the second, the official standard of the Marine Corps, of which Ken is a member. I say “is,” not “was,” as I was quickly disavowed of the notion that someone who was ever honorably discharged from this branch of the military service is ever considered an “ex.” A Marine always IS a Marine. If you are ever strolling with one through the tents of a country fair and come upon the Marine Corp display table, you will see the brotherhood in action: High fives and semper fi’s all around; you would think they had been neighbors for years. I tell you; they are all like this.
I am proud to say my parents served in the military too. The five of us kids grew up listening to stories of Dad’s exploits on a fighting destroyer in Admiral “Bull” Halsey’s Seventh Fleet in the Pacific during World War II. He lent his 119 pounds of Navy strength to keep his ship moving forward during the Battles of Saipan, Philippines, Leyte Gulf, the Marianas “Turkey Shoot” and scores of others. We would finish dinner and let the dishes sit while we sat in rapt silence listening to his exploits; picking up downed pilots, the challenges of keeping the giant boilers running, the towering waves from ocean storms, the terrifying attacks from planes whose pilots had no intention of returning alive. There were funny stories too; how fresh baked bread was whisked to their hold in the boiler room, the cans of “missing” peaches, the search and share by compassionate officers. The most astonishing tale was from the end of World War II, when Dad’s ship, The Connor, captured the Tachibana Maru, a warship in disguise. Instead of patients, it was loaded with troops. Fortunately, for the crew who boarded it, of which Dad was one, the soldiers did not know they were sleeping on beds that were actually boxes filled with weapons and ammunition. The story only made a small splash stateside; however, because by the time they reached shore, the Big Bombs had been dropped and the war was officially over.
When Dad joined the Navy, Mom did too. At that time, women did not serve overseas, unless they were medical professionals, but Mom did the office support work so essential in the massive effort for this country to pull off fighting two wars at the same time.
Memorial Day is about memories, for the living and the dead. It is to honor those ordinary people all around us who have done, and are still doing, jobs that we cannot imagine knowing about, and then come home and live among us. They are a different breed, they share an amazing past, some bitter, some painful, some best forgotten. They are all to be honored. Regardless of what we believe about politics, or war, or hatred or winning or losing, we need to honor those who have stepped up to the plate and put their lives on the line, even when they did not want to.
So today, Memorial Day; I salute you: Ken, my Marine, Gavin, my Marine nephew who served twice in Iraq, Dad, my sailor, and Mom, my WAVE.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you.