According to Wikipedia, Memorial Day started out as Decoration Day and was to honor the Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the American Civil War. It’s since grown to honor all our veterans, men and women, who have died in service of our country. It seems only right to do so. In fact, it’s grown to include service men and women still serving, again as it should.
Through the years, it’s become a marketing tool; a way to get shoppers to go to a department store and spend money. I suppose that is the American way and the right of those stores to do so. It is supposed to be a free market; that is what our vets fight for so I suppose it’s okay. However, I can’t say I agree with forgetting the real purpose. Fortunately, there does seem to be a turnaround in that area. I keep seeing posts on Facebook and other places of people reminding others the reason we can have those barbecues and fun days in the pool or at the river. I’m not the most patriotic person, but even I remember why we have our freedoms and I am always grateful.
I always get the impression from many that because I just happen to be liberal-minded that somehow I’m anti-military. This is not true.
It’s true – I don’t like war. I really don’t like guns, but whatever political opinions I may have, it has nothing to do with my supporting the troops or how I feel about the military in general. I’m not always a fan of the politics but I don’t hold them accountable for that. How could I ever fault someone for having enough pride in this country that he or she would make what seems like an endless amount of sacrifices? How can I fault someone for making those sacrifices that ensure my freedoms, including the right to disagree with our government? I can complain because someone else sacrificed, their families and friends sacrificed. Having certain political ideas isn’t necessarily synonymous with disliking the military or lacking patriotism. Most importantly, I am more than appreciative and grateful for the things our military men and women do and I never forget what holidays like Memorial Day are really about and that is why I volunteer for our veterans.
I don’t wear a bunch of clothing with the American flag. I don’t have a flag outside my apartment. I don’t have bumper stickers on my car, etc. I’ve come to believe that real patriotism is more than just a display. After 9/11 there was a surge in patriotic feelings, which is great, but since then it’s died down for multiple reasons. I’ve always believed in actions speak louder than words and so one year ago today, I took action. As I spoke before in Finding Myself by Losing Myself in the Service of Others, I have a strong belief in volunteering. I’d been wanting to volunteer and so finally, I listened to my mom’s suggestion and joined a group called Soldiers’ Angels. I found a team within that group that suited me so well – I found my calling. I joined their letter writing team and now I write letters to deployed men and women of all military branches. What better way to show my patriotic-side than by supporting the troops, by actually doing something instead of just saying I do?
I’ve been doing this for a year now and I couldn’t be happier. I have had the good fortune of getting a few replies and that’s always exciting. I expanded my volunteering to include adopting a soldier. I am now in the process of expanding my volunteer efforts by hopefully, getting involved with the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System. With any luck, I will get the chance to have face time with some folks and better yet, get to write these guys’ and gals’ amazing stories.
Part of the influence that helped push me to join a nonprofit group was because of work. Two years ago, I covered a lunch break by the group Run for the Wall, a nonprofit organization that has bikers ride cross-country to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. This may be shameless self-promoting but it’s easier if you read it for yourself: Run for Wall makes stop is an article I wrote for my job. The woman’s story was amazing. Last year, I actually did two articles from same lunch stop. I spoke to a retired Marine SSGT Tim Chambers. He’s got a really amazing story. One part of that story includes being referred to as the Lone or Saluting Marine. He stands on Constitution in Washington, D.C., saluting the Rolling Thunder biker rally as they arrive at the Vietnam Memorial. This salute can take between three and five hours, at least that’s what he told me. He holds that salute regardless of any pain he feels, the heat or other discomfort. It’s his way of thanking the veterans and ensuring they get their welcome home they didn’t when they served.
That year I also spoke with a gentleman named Dave Barr. He’s a Marine Vietnam veteran. After his stint in the Corps, he spent many years serving in other countries’ militaries. He wasn’t a mercenary, he was a full soldier. He’s a double amputee, missing both his legs from just above the knee down. He’d ridden his motorcycle all over the continent. In fact, he’s ridden all over several continents. Here’s the story I wrote that year: Run for Wall makes traditional stop. Both Tim and Dave can be looked up on Google. I highly recommend it too. These guys are pretty amazing.
I am privileged to have met these gentlemen. I have had the good fortune to meet others at that lunch. So many have incredible stories. I’m lucky to have met them and I’m definitely super lucky to live in a place where these guys and gals do so much for me. You don’t have to agree with the politics, but don’t forget to say thank you.