The Individual Stories Of Memorial Day
The Individual Stories Of Memorial Day
Memorial Day is the day where we, as a nation, stop and pause to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice: their lives for our freedoms.
However, as time goes on, Memorial Day becomes less personal for the American public. While most have a veteran who served in their family’s history, the gap between civilian and military families is growing. Memorial Day is one of those few days when the gap is bridged, but even then, there is a gulf of emotion that separates a grateful nation from those who have paid the ultimate price.
So, we listen to the stories of those who can express that emotion to us. Former Army Ranger Luke Ryan wrote about the night his best friend, Sergeant Patrick Hawkins, was killed in Afghanistan.
Then there was Patrick, my dear friend and Ranger brother. We entered the same squad just after the Ranger selection course, grew into young leaders and traveled the world and into combat four times together. We were roommates back home and overseas, and we were seldom apart. We laughed at the same jokes and recited the same lines from our favorite movies. When we cleared rooms or took fire, we knew exactly how the other would move. As I sat in the cargo plane, my thoughts drifted gently to his wedding, and to his wife and parents. I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t terrified, I was just sad. Sad that it happened and sad that for Patrick’s loved ones the years ahead would be filled with so much pain.”
Patrick and I had never gone on a mission without each other, and we never would. (Though my injuries from that night were not severe, they kept me from returning to that deployment, and I left the military soon after.) There was some dark poetry to that; on paper, our military careers were alike in almost every way, and yet for some reason I left with my life and he did not. I wondered how the future could possibly look without him in it.”
There is so much raw pain in loss for those who are left behind. Especially when death comes under terrible circumstances. Taylor Gordon is trying to turn her brother Nick Gordon’s suicide from something incredibly crushing, into something that might help other veterans.
"Movement, and work with our own bodies, heals," says Bruce Robertson Smith, who dances with a group that helps veterans…
The grief for those who lost battle buddies or loved ones never completely fades, even with time.
Wayne Miller joined the Marine Corps in 1968.”
“I was wounded July 4, 1969, when mortar rounds hit all around me and I lost my left leg above the left knee …(had) several shrapnel wounds from my head down to my toe, and spent several months in the hospital recuperating in Philadelphia Naval Hospital,” he said.”
One of Miller’s friends from high school, Tommy Moffitt, was killed in action in Vietnam. He was just 18.”
“He was one of the first Marines to be buried at sea, from Vietnam … his brothers are good friends of mine also,” Miller said.”
Moffitt’s name is one of about 130 engraved on the Montgomery County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Rockville, and when it was dedicated last year, Miller had the honor of saying Moffitt’s name in remembrance.”
“My thing is to say their names, because every time you say their name you keep their memory alive, and that’s what Memorial Day is. It’s not going out and buying cars and beds and having a day off work,” he said.”
Memorial Day is about keeping the memories of these soldiers, sailors, and Marines alive. At some level, every American, even if we have not suffered a personal loss, understands that behind each name is a story, a life, loved ones left behind. And it’s what drives us to stand up for those who have served, and have no one to stand by them in death. When the call goes out, Americans come to honor their veterans.
TODAY AT 3 PM Korean War Veteran Hezekiah Perkins, 90, will be buried in Cincinnati's Spring Grove Cemetery — Section 137, Lot 318, Space 1.
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) May 25, 2019
— CNN (@CNN) May 26, 2019
Hezekiah Perkins had prepared for the funeral more than 20 years ago. He’d prepaid for the ceremony and the burial, the funeral home said on its Facebook page.”
But when the day finally came this week, Perkins’ relatives couldn’t make the trip to Cincinnati, Ohio, because of health issues.”
So, Spring Grove Funeral Home put out a plea to the community. The funeral home asked them to come fill the chairs to honor the legacy of a man who fought for the US Army in the Korean War in the 1950’s.”
“We had no idea what the response was going to be,” said the funeral home’s Director of Operations Skip Phelps.”
On Saturday thousands of people showed up to pay their respects. Phelps said some drove hundreds of miles to be in attendance, including one couple from Mississippi.”
Soldiers from Fort Knox were at the service to perform a flag ceremony. The staff acted as pallbearers and the funeral director, Lynay Straughn, received the flag on behalf of the family.”
Perkins was honored by a full military processional with hundreds of cars led by motorcycles, a bugle player playing TAPS, bagpipers playing “Amazing Grace,” and veterans in full military uniforms, according to Phelps.”
Perkins’ daughter was able to see the service via Facetime.”
The names and stories of those who gave their all for their country will be all over social media today (the tag #MemorialDayWeekend is a good one to follow). Remember them. Learn their stories. Say their names, so they will not be forgotten. Stand by them in death. And remember them not just this day, but every day.