A Memorial Day Awakening
As I was driving down the street in my town of White Bear Lake MN, there were hundreds of American Flags lining the streets. “Patriotic Pride”; it’s an emotion that is hard to describe, yet when it comes upon us, our eyes always steam with tears.
Today, I saw an elderly uniformed gentleman walk out of the local VFW hall with his veteran’s hat on, full of pins and embroidered patriotic words. He looked very frail and was walking slowly, but with such a sense of purpose. He was carrying an arm full of flags, and a heart full of emotion. This was a soldier. Although his body had long ago given way to old age, he was a brave man who served his country during a war, in time when his body was young and strong. It was a time when he saw unthinkable things and spent the rest of his life trying to “remember”, remember Old Glory when faced with death and the unthinkable. And a lifetime of trying to forget. He was walking toward a young man waiting by a car for him who wore a uniform from a much different war. He was a young man whose plight and sacrifices were evident when he walked over to the old soldier. The young man greeted him with a big smile and a hand shake. His titanium legs seemed unimportant as they shared a moment that only soldiers understood. The young man took the flags and respectfully and painstakingly laid them in the back seat of the car, careful not to wrinkle them and keep them safe. He then carefully and respectfully helped the old man into his car. Precious cargo.
As the car drove away, I couldn’t help but wonder where they were going. But I knew it was an important moment. They were preparing for the “day of remembering”. I thought in that moment, that I would never truly understand their “remembering”. All of us, who never served, will never understand the truest meaning of sacrifice. The truest meaning of the American Flag, and what it really meant to fight for it. It was an incredible moment of awakening for me. As I watch these two soldiers, my eyes filled with tears, and I thought of my father who was a quiet survivor; a highly decorated Veteran and a very personal reason for celebrating this day. The handshake of these two solders changed my life. Although I find myself with a new found compassion for our heroes, I will never fully understand the dichotomy of the day of a hero’s remembrance, and their lifetime of trying to forget.
And so on a weekend that welcomes the start of the summer, backyard parties, and grave site visits, all we can really do is “remember them”, their sacrifices, and hold them near to our hearts. I love you Dad…God Bless America.
Author: Catherine Capra-Leaf