Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day--

Does It Matter Anymore?

I am late getting my blog up today, due to last minute running errands before the Memorial Day weekend.  A lot of other folks seemed to be out doing the same.  The roads were busy. Stores were crowded. It seems that everyone is preparing for the hot summer BBQ. We anticipate an extra day off from work to spend with family and friends.

But sometimes we need to stop and remind ourselves what Memorial Day is all about--remembering those who have so faithfully and bravely fallen to protect America. We may not be here today if it were not for those brave souls.
I will never forget, shortly after moving here a few years ago, when a young man from our small town of 9,000 named Riley Bates was killed in the line of duty in Iraq. I found out that his body was being flown in on a June day, and the family would be bringing him back for services at the nearby funeral home right on the main street in our old downtown.  I just wanted to be there to say "Thank You," when his funeral procession drove by, so I went downtown when they were about due to arrive.
 I was surprised to see how many people were there, completely lining both sides of the street for blocks, awaiting young Riley's return home. Hundreds of people, from the very young to the very old and everything in between were there anxiously waiting, American flags in hand.
 The local Fire Department hung a large flag over the street where Riley's hearse would pass.
As anticipation grew more people arrived and the crowd grew larger. Soon we saw headlights come around the corner from the highway. Leading the way were some motorcycles followed by 22 year old Riley's hearse, and car after car of his family and close friends. 
As the entourage drew near the crowd became so intensely quiet you could have heard a pin drop.
After they all passed by, everyone followed on foot and gathered around the funeral home to watch his casket brought forth by a military honor guard.
We watched in silent respect until the dignified honors were completed. Everyone stayed until all of Riley's family had filed quietly into the small funeral home. No one wanted to leave. We all felt like we had lost someone dear to us, whether we knew him personally or not. For days after his funeral our town honored Riley Bates and his family. It helped bring home to all of us how dear the price is that is paid for each slain soul. 
Fortunately we have never lost anyone near and dear to us in our own family during wartime. So every year on Memorial Day my thoughts go back to Riley, and the memory I have of his mother as her eyes met mine as the hearse passed by. It wasn't until that moment that I began to comprehend the pain suffered for each lost life. I had never sobbed out loud in public before.
 Today I still remember that Riley is still gone. His mother and father's hearts are still aching to hold him just one more time. And, in spite of the neglect paid to the continuing War Against Terrorism by the media, young men and women are still dying on foreign soil.  It seems that so few care anymore.
May God protect our Best and Bravest.
May we never forget those who could not return--especially on Memorial Day.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this sad and beautiful reminder of what Memorial Day is for. We lost a Marine in our small town this past February and it still makes me terribly sad for his mother and father. I wasn't able to be there but hundreds of people lined our streets for the return of his casket, too.