For many, Memorial Day holiday brings visuals of the perfectly manicured cemeteries of Arlington National Cemetary, Normandy, flags, or uniformed servicemen and women (usually in their formal with their white gloves). These are moving and humbling images and we are all in debt for the sacrifices. Memorial Day is about taking a day to remember; nevertheless, it's also a day to do American things. BBQs, pools, and relaxing, all the comforts fought for, the American freedom and way of life.
I live in a small town where the downtown streets have curb parking, little old storefronts, and the utility poles all have American flags flying year-round and not just on the holidays. I was not born or and raised here in this town; my accent is a give away for that. I am one of five children raised as a U.S. Army dependent so when asked where I am from that stumps me.
As a child, I thought I'd had just a normal childhood. We never had as much as a lot of other kids did but we didn't go without either; we weren't hungry, our clothes were always clean, and because there were five of us we always had a companion or someone to annoy. We just seemed to have A LOT of friends whose dad's worked either in the mailroom of the embassies or were air traffic controllers; as an adult, I've put a lot of "it" together. And now we laugh when we reconnect as adults with a better knowledge of what our father's careers were about during our childhood friendships; DEA agents, surveillance pilots, state department interpreters, espionage. It's like a mystery novel furthermore it explains why we were followed when we went out as a gang of American teens living in Europe; we only noticed on occasion so they must have been better some times than others, or maybe it was the alcohol.
My dad served in the U.S. Army for his first career as an Ordnance Officer, my two uncles each served during the Vietnam and Korean wars; all three transitioned to civilian careers. All were true Patriots: one the first U.S military laser expert who created the radar signatures used by FAA and all airlines today for safe air travel; another patriot developed several patents including environmental alarm systems used in the petroleum industry; the third patriot served in Africa and returned home to work in the food industry.
I lost my Uncle Ed, in August (it doesn't seem like almost a year ago) after a home invasion left him battered and unconscious; he did not die alone, I held his hand and he was coherent on the day we arrived; however, he suffered alone for many days before being found. By the time mom and I arrived, he had been transferred to UMC ICU and was on life support with diminishing signs there would be an improvement. With his healthcare directives in hand, our hearts sank as we shared it with the medical staff of physicians. We all agreed on the interpretation and proceeded with his wishes; it was the right thing but it still haunts me...he was a U.S. Marine Captain, a combat veteran, marathon runner, and retired Exxon Mobile Patent Attorney. He will be laid to rest with military honors at Arlington National Cemetary on Tuesday, August 18th barring another postponement due to COVID-19.
I lost my father on December 27th, he had been successfully tolerating immunotherapy for melanoma treatment for four years when we got the dreaded diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. We were just adjusting to the loss of Ed and here we were confronted with the inevitable loss of dad within the next year or so. We thought we had longer than we actually got; but we only had four short but memory filled months. I didn't change any of my habits; I always told dad I loved him, argued with all my passion, questioned and listened for his wisdom, learned from his lessons, yet still daily I strive for his high standard of intellect and work ethic. I miss him every day...still. He too will be laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetary on Monday, August 17th barring another postponement due to COVID-19.
I lost my Uncle John on May 12th, succumbed to respiratory complications related to COVID-19. He had served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean war in Africa and was very active in the Boy Scouts of America. He and my aunt had visited NC in November, we had so many good laughs and family time. We knew it was likely the last time he would get to visit with dad but we never envisioned it would be our last visit with him...life is so precious. He was my favorite uncle and as a youngster I used to snuggle with him, I was not able to be there when he was laid to rest just yesterday, May, 23rd.
This Memorial Day holiday is so very bittersweet; not so much because of the quarantine; I am surrounded by my family and children, whom I adore and love. However, I find myself struggling with the void of dad, and reflect on the service of all three of these brave me and what they did without question for their country. I have never taken it for granted; I have always understood the value and sacrifices of bravery made for our nation. Still, in the past year, the meaning has so drastically changed for me in that now it is no longer a sharable holiday WITH my patriots but memories OF my patriots. Oh boy, next up will be July 4th; and that is also mom and dad's wedding anniversary...wish us luck! And it will be a big emotional couple of days for the family in August if we are able to follow through with the current plans to lay both Uncle Ed and Dad in their final resting places in Arlington. It is ironic that they both served within six miles of each other in Vietnam and now they are waiting to rest close together as well. Memories...make good memories you all, there is no chance for a do-over. Cheers!