Posts Tagged ‘veterans’
After surviving another one of our famous winters (though perhaps not as famous as the one endured by Washington, D.C. this past year, ironically enough), my fellow Wisconsinites and I are ready to break the cabin fever by kicking off another summer this Memorial Day weekend. For some of us, however, this weekend means much more than just barbeques, backyard baseball, and an extra day off of work (or two if you count those government furloughs). To those who have served in defense of our great nation and their families and friends, Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor those who paid the ultimate price for freedom.
The history of Memorial Day can be traced back to the mid to late-1860s, as the Civil War was coming to an end. Widows, mothers, sisters, and other relatives of the deceased soldiers joined together in decorating the graves of their lost loved ones. After it had been officially proclaimed a holiday by General John Logan in early May 1868, the first Memorial Day was observed on May 30, 1868 as flowers were laid on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The day of remembrance became part of a three-day weekend at the end of May in 1971, with the passage of the National Holiday Act by Congress.
For as long as I can remember, my family and I have always observed Memorial Day in our small town by participating in the early morning parade followed by a service at the cemetery to honor our fallen hometown heroes. I have also had the privilege of observing this special day in historic places like Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. As important as this day is to veterans like my grandfather, father and brother in remembering those they fought alongside who didn’t make it home, Memorial Day is, in a way, a second Thanksgiving for my family. We’re thankful to have our own heroes home with us.
I recall the stories my aunts told me of my dad’s years in the Army, and the fear they shared with my grandparents and uncles when they received the news that he had been hit by bomb shrapnel in the jungles of Vietnam. Thankfully, after extensive surgery and recovery in a field hospital, my dad made it home where he was reunited with his family on the farm and awarded the Purple Heart.
Nearly four decades later, I experienced that same fear as my aunts when my family and I received word that my younger brother, who was serving his second tour in Iraq with the Army, had been wounded by a sniper outside of Baghdad. How badly was he wounded? Would he be okay? Would there be long-term damage? We spent the following weeks at his bedside at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where the amazing doctors guided him along the path to full recovery – and just in time to have his Purple Heart presented to him by President George W. Bush.
As thankful as we are to have our veterans home today, my family and I still mourn for those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and pray for their families and friends as they endure the healing process. We join them every Memorial Day in honoring their memories and thanking them for the price they paid in order for us to live in freedom.