Monday, May 28, 2012

Decoration Day

It is appropriate this Memorial Day to salute all those who have given their lives in defense of this nation. Without their sacrifices we would not be free to ask questions, to challenge our political leaders and to take an active role in our system of government. To them we owe an unrepayable debt.

The United States of America was born from the blood and ashes of war--the Revolutionary War of 1776. It was fought to defend the "self-evident" truth "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Those who fought and died were committed to the notion that government derives its "just powers from the consent of the governed" and that when a government does not protect the unalienable rights of the people, it is the "Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness."

Since the war of 1776, nearly two and a quarter centuries ago, thousands, thousands of men and women have died for the same cause. Tyranny does not reign in America--as it does so many places around the globe--because so many have love their country more than their own lives.

While this is the weekend that generally kicks off the summer season with family get-togethers, cookouts, and three-day get-aways, let’s not forget the true reason why the holiday exists.

Memorial Dayoriginally known as Decoration Day—was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. It has been celebrated ever since then as a day to honor veterans of foreign wars and all the men and women currently serving in the armed forces. Take some time this weekend to recognize the true meaning of the holiday and share the history with your children.

A moving tribute to our veterans is the photograph below. Taken by the photographer Todd Heisler for The Rocky Mountain News, “Jim Comes Home” – which documents the return and burial of Second Lt. Jim Cathey of the United States Marines, who lost his life in Iraq – the photo shows his pregnant widow, Katherine, lying on an air mattress in front of his coffin. She’s staring at her laptop, listening to songs that remind her of Jim. Her expression is vacant, her grief almost palpable.

Not only the picture shows the bereaved young woman, but the Marine who stands behind her. In an earlier photo in the series, we see him building her nest of blankets on the air mattress. In this photo – he merely stands next to the coffin, watching over her. I believe this photo is so honest about one’s grief but also so modern. During a spouse’s deployment your laptop is your battle buddy. Your sense of connection and emotional well-being is sustained via e-mail, Facebook, Skype and Instagram. It appears, per Lieutenant Cathey’s widow, that the same is true even in a time of loss. This heartbreaking photo showcases the intersection of technology and agony.

We are in a time when thousands of wounded service members need care, jobs, and attention. Civilians need to be aware of the struggles of our returning veterans and also their widowed families. The civilian-military gap isn’t always born of indifference, but rather, at times, a sense of helplessness on the civilian side. What can I do? If you do nothing else, you can remember those who have given their lives for their country. Our country. Remembrance, which may seem a modest contribution in the moment, is a sacred act with long-term payoff – a singularly human gift that keeps on giving, year after war-fatigued year. By hanging your flag, saying a prayer, shaking a hand, offering assistance in any shape or form, civilians will be bearing witness and remembering in their own way – that those who are gone and those who are returning are not forgotten.

CONGRATULATIONS – to Geoff B. on his commission this coming weekend in Washington D.C. to the United States Marine Corps. His example is no finer representation of this generation.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Greg Ball …wanna be Rockies announcer, Anderson Cooper (45), Clint Eastwood (82), Morgan Freeman (75), Anthony Geary (75),  Dennis Haysbert (58), Carol Ann Lewis …famous Arizona Wildcat, Ron Wood (65).

Next week, Dear Rink Rats and Major League Baseball at the quarter pole.
Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
May 28, 2012

#III-5, 110

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