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I’d like to share with you the thoughts of some of my women friends about what Memorial Day means to them.  I am moved by their sentiments. I think you will be too.

The first remembrance is from our friend Elizabeth Letchworth, whose husband recently lost his life to a long battle with cancer. Every Sunday since his passing, Elizabeth writes “Ron’s Sunday Blog” in his memory, recalling moments of their life together. Today, she remembers a cross, Ground Zero, and a photo she and Ron treasured.

“Ron’s Sunday Blog—Pictures are worth 1000 words?”

“Honor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are His sanctuary.”
(Psalm 96:6)

Memorial Day is a great time to reflect on the sacrifices of our military men and women. Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day due in part to women of the South. Organized women’s groups began decorating graves of the dead killed in the Civil war. Memorial Day was first observed officially on May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. Congress, (always quick to respond—Ha, Ha!) made the holiday an official federal holiday in 1971.

When this nation experienced the dreadful tragedy of September 11, 2001, we were stirred and awakened to a spirit of patriotism almost unsurpassed in our nation’s history. Ron and I were lucky enough to visit NYC and ground zero three years later. As we walked up to the giant hole of rubble and debris from the fallen twin towers, Ron was struck by the sight of what seemed to be a perfectly intact cross. This cross was actually two structural beams that helped to make up the foundation of one of the world trade center buildings. Ron was so moved by this seemly obscure site that he took a picture of the beams. The ground zero site at that time had no organized tour guides explaining the horrific event. There were a few temporary signs indicating where the public could and could not walk but otherwise visitors were on their own to pay their respects as they saw fit. The visitors all around us were respectfully quiet. You could hear a pin drop. Ron’s camera made the only noise I heard as we starred at the unthinkable destruction. Later that night we talked about what we saw. We recounted what we were doing on that fateful day, now three years in the past. Ron mentioned the picture he had taken and how something moved him to take it. He said he hoped he was able to capture a good image, otherwise the picture was forgotten.

A couple of weeks later I had the film developed. The ground zero cross picture was perfect. Ron captured the cross beams displaying their strength in the aftermath of the hideous event. To my surprise, Ron’s photo also revealed an American flag flying in the background and twisted rubble still hanging from part of the cross. The hanging rubble looked like a shroud over the cross in the picture that Ron took. We decided to frame the picture and give it to family and friends for the upcoming Christmas.

Months after that Christmas I came across a national article about the ground zero cross. The story explained that the cross beams were discovered by construction-rescue workers a couple of days after 9/11. The beams were standing strong like the picture Ron took. Those workers considered it a miracle that these beams were intact and began to conduct regular church services around the beams to honor and praise God in the face of the disaster they were working to clean up. A couple of years later an Internet campaign was created to ensure that the cross beams would be a part of whatever memorial eventually gets built at ground zero.

I look at the picture now and think about our trip to ground zero back in September of 2004. I also think about all of the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror. I am grateful for the service of all the fallen men and women. I hope that those reading RSB will honor our fallen military while enjoying this Memorial Day.

***

Next, from Jacqueline Marie, a Canadian who says she hasn’t written anything longer than a grocery list, a snarky Facebook update or a text message in months, and feels her writing muscles atrophying by the day, so apologizes that this little note will probably be even more clunky than usual. Clunky? I think it’s graceful…

Memorial Day Weekend has me feeling thoughtful. For me, it’s one of those “new” American holidays that I observe now. In Canada, we have Victoria Day; a federal statutory holiday celebrated the last Monday before May 25th, to commemorate the sovereign Queen Victoria’s birthday. “The Mother of Confederation” was actually born on May 24th, and while official protocol requires the Royal Union Flag to be flown from sunrise to sunset at all federal government buildings, and 21 gun salutes in each province, the holiday has become more of the symbol of the opening of the cottage season than anything else. In fact, it’s often referred to as May Two Four, a Canadian inside joke referring to the 24 bottles of beer in a case.😉

I see Memorial Day in NY is also the unofficial kick off of summer; the start of the weekends in the Hamptons, Fire Island and Lake George; backyard grilling if you’re in the ‘burbs and rooftop cocktails in the city. The actual meaning of the day is undermined, and observed nonchalantly. I’ve been here for six years now: I never knew until today that the flag was raised briskly to the top of the flag pole, and then somberly lowered to half staff until noon, and then raised again for the remainder of the day. It’s a beautiful expression of the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for this country being “raised up” by the living, to show it has not been in vain, that the fight for liberty and justice for all continues, and I didn’t even know that this was commemorated. I’m continually astounded by my own ignorance.

I got a note today from a friend’s husband today who is in Afghanistan as a civilian helicopter pilot. He talked to me about the escalation of the “Spring Offensive” and the recent rocket attack on his base, and the daily IED’s. He told me about the sandstorms and lightening storms that come up like something out of a movie. He told me that when he flies the American servicemen to their destinations, he strives to give them the best ride he can. He takes them through the mountains and shows them stunning countryside, and actually tries to provide “service”, so they don’t feel just shunted from point A to point B like they do on some military flights.

Then, he told me that four kids were playing by the gate of his base, and dug up a landmine. It exploded, killing two and wounding the other two badly. “It’s pity it’s such a f*cked up place” he wrote, and then apologized for rambling. Mike has never served in the military: he is an expert pilot with vast hours of mountain flying experience, garnered from fighting forest fires in the interior of British Columbia and Australia. Arial fire fighting is incredibly dangerous, but it’s a far cry from being shelled, and seeing children killed and maimed. It got me thinking about those not in service, who nonetheless choose to put themselves in a war zone, away from their families and comforts of home, often at great personal risk.

We have people in our group who have served this country bravely, and I am humbled to know you. We also have people in our group who have lost their loved ones to this struggle, and I can’t even imagine the depth of your pain. This Memorial Day, I will remember the sacrifice of our servicemen and women, but I’m also thinking of those not in uniform, but who have nonetheless given so much, seen so much, grieved so much. Those who have lost children, spouses, brothers, sisters, and friends, but also those who chose to bring their expertise to areas of conflict like Afghanistan, to try to rebuild a country with a ruptured economy, little infrastructure, a sundered rule of law, and a deficit of human capital.

I am ashamed of how little I have done with everything I have been given. But I consider what I could do, and I think of words that Marc Lee wrote: “I think the truth to our greatness is each other. Purity, morals and kindness, passed down to each generation through example. So to all my family and friends, do me a favor and pass on the kindness, the love, the precious gift of human life to each other so that when your children come in to contact with great conflict, they are people of humanity, of pure motives, of compassion.” I can be kinder, I can be more compassionate, and I can be more grateful and gracious. I can be forgiving and I can be less cynical. I can be diligent in my work, and like Mike, always give them my best. I can support all the efforts and projects of the people in this group. For now, this is what I can do. Have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend.

***

I have come to know our Gold Star Mom, Debbie Lee through such wonderful organizations as America’s Mighty Warriors, Move America Forward and the Tea Party Express.  She knows well the sacrifice, as her son US Navy SEAL Marc Alan Lee was killed defending his brothers in arms on a dusty street in Iraq.

The commercials on TV are calling us to purchase, cars, furniture, clothing, appliances, electronics or a myriad of other things to “Celebrate Memorial Day” with their huge blowout sales! Our Parks and Recreation programs are declaring summer has arrived by opening our pools and encouraging us to come join in the fun and laughter this Memorial Day weekend.  It saddens me and breaks my heart to see that most of America has taken advantage of this 3 day weekend as a reason to party, shop and celebrate for self-fulfillment.   

As a country we have lost our focus and the reason why we take time to stop and respectfully, solemnly and reverently remember those who gave up their last breath and hope of a future, so that we could enjoy each and every day. We have failed our children by not educating them as to the real meaning of Memorial Day.

As I child I remember getting together with family for picnics or bar-b-ques.  We looked forward to camping trips or trips to the lake.  There were a few trips I remember to the cemetery but it was to place flowers on deceased relative’s graves who had never served in the military. I thought Memorial Day was to remember loved ones who had died. I wasn’t taught and therefore I missed the opportunity to teach my children that Memorial Day is to remember those who paid the ultimate price. Freedom comes with a price, it isn’t free.

The way he lived his life and the value he placed on others’ lives, caused him to sacrifice his life defending his teammates and our freedoms. Marc was the first Navy SEAL killed in Iraq 8-2-06. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13

The orders from Gen. John A. Logan declared “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit. “

General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery on the first Observance of Memorial day and then 5,000 patriots decorated the graves of 20,000 soldiers buried in the cemetery. I am so proud of the boy scouts who every year place flags on my son’s grave and every headstone at Fort Rosecrans. I know that many others throughout the nation will be doing the same at National Cemeteries all over our country, thank you!

Waterloo, NY was declared by President Johnson as the official birthplace of Memorial Day. He recognized that this was a city who understood the real meaning of Memorial Day. They knew that Memorial Day was to honor America’s mighty warriors who sacrificed their lives in combat defending our freedoms. Businesses closed, community wide events were planned to honor our brave warriors who were killed in action and residents gathered and decorated the graves of our heroes.  How sad that there are businesses in America who take advantage of this holiday and choose to increase their profits instead of sacrificing a little by closing to remember the sacrifice of our fallen war heroes.

I speak for all of the Gold Star families who have lost a loved one in combat, that every day for us is Memorial Day. With pride and pain we remember them; we remember their smile, their voice, their smell, their touch, their laughter, their character, their dedication and their sacrifice. As a nation we ask that on Memorial Day, one day out of the year that as a Nation we corporately come together to honor our fallen heroes who died in combat.  That’s not asking too much for the blessings and freedoms that you enjoy every day.

I’ve read many articles about Memorial Day and heard quotes from speeches from well-meaning people, even from our leaders in the military, who seem to not completely understand that Memorial Day is the Day we remember those heroes, who while serving in the military, died in combat. We have Armed Forces Day and Veterans Day to remember our Vets who are serving or have served.  Personally not a day goes by that I don’t remember our Vets, not matter when they served, or the branch of service they were in. I’ve dedicated my life to honoring, thanking and supporting our military and especially the families of the fallen, but on May 30th, Memorial Day join with me as we “Remember” not “Celebrate” those who gave their all for you and I.

Join with me as I lead the charge to reclaim Memorial Day. Attend Parades and community events to remember our fallen heroes.  Take a carload of friends and family to a National Cemetery and decorate the graves and remember the sacrifice of a hero and their family. Thank the family members of those you know who lost a loved one in combat. Take a Gold Star family to lunch, coffee, dinner and ask them about their hero. Do something to let them know you have not forgotten the sacrifice and understand the high price that has been paid for our freedoms. Read a story of a fallen hero, watch a memorial video, then pass it on to those whose lives you have influence on.

If you’re a business close on May 30th to honor and remember our fallen or donate the proceeds from the day to a charity who tells the stories of our fallen or who takes care of the families of the fallen. Our fallen heroes gave their very last breath defending you and they have earned the respect due them on Memorial Day.

Remembering their sacrifice!

Debbie Lee

If you would like to learn more about Marc Alan Lee and his heroic story you may go to www.americasmightywarriors.org . You can also make a donation or purchase product to continue to support the families of the fallen through America’s Mighty Warriors www.americasmightywarriors.org.