May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

I was in the Army from 93-97. Learned a lot, met a lot of great people and met a lot of assholes. But, it wasn't until I got out and got back home, that I really understood.

I had my reasons for joining the military, and at the time, none of them had to do with pride. It wasn't until I made a trip to the Legion, a town over, that I had witnessed what I would recall history.

On the octagon monument out front, were the names of all the soldiers from the town that had served in the armed forces going all the back to the Revolution. And a majority of those names were family members. Including those in the Revolutionary War.

I was stunned? A little speechless. As the Legion has always stood in front of the town park, not once as a kid did I ever pay attention to the monument. My goal as a kid was to get to the playground, play and get home by time the street lights came on.

As I went inside, dressed in my Class A uniform, I met with a lot of other soldiers from various branches, all dressed to the hilt. It was 7am, it was breakfast. The old men, some whom I knew, were telling war stories and others were just listening. See, today was Memorial Day. And I had been asked by a friend of the family, who had also served in the Army to come down and march in the parade. But more importantly, they were shy one person for the trips to the local cemetery's. So I had agreed.

Most of these men were family or friends of the family. But there were also a handful I didn't recognize. And it was one of those men, who at first, I caught giving me "the look." But when he caught a glimpse of the jump wings on my chest, he grinned and motioned for me to sit next to him. He had to be in his late 50's, early 60's (i can't quite recall though). His name was Raymond. And he had served in WWII in the 101st. We had a long talk, and though he was old enough to be my grandfather, the look in his eye was that of respect. And he had the respect in return.

After breakfast, we had all gotten into our vehicles and followed the lead car. Now, growing up in this town and area all my life, I knew where all the cemeteries were. And it was our job on this day, to go to each, and salute our fallen brothers and sisters. Well, i thought I knew where they all were. There were some buried in the hillsides that were almost long and forgotten. And those few, the stones were nothing more then soldiers. Not one civilian was buried there that I could tell. So we had our prayer service at each one, followed by a 21 gun salute. After the last cemetery, we made it back to the Legion to prepare for the parade. This was now a ritual for the next few years.

At times, I consider myself luck. As I never saw combat. Yet at the same time, I consider myself unlucky, because for those who have, I don't know what they've gone through.

Back in 95', half of my battalion went to Panama, the rest stayed home. This would have been the only chance I would have gotten to experience anything in the field. As of 2004, the battalion was deactivated and reassigned to the 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment.

But after my first meeting with Raymond, I had come to respect all my brothers and sisters. It's not just on two days a year, but everyday. I just wish my family had taught me about it when I was younger, instead of just having BBQ's, family fights, etc. And I wish more kids knew what it's about.

So to all those that have served, thank you.


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