Memorial Day: a day on which those who died in active military service are remembered
Marvin Ross Sprayberry III
Some of the object lessons in my life are easier to talk about than others – and this is one of those hard ones. I’ve “celebrated” Memorial Day my whole life, just like most people -- hang the flag up outside, a day off from school/work, barbeque and swimming with family and friends. I’m embarrassed to say that it wasn’t until 10 years ago that Memorial Day took on new meaning for me – the meaning it’s supposed to have for all of us – and like most things in my life, I had to learn it the hard way.May 4, 2004 – we were awakened at 2:00am to our son pounding on the front door and yelling for his dad. My husband went out to see what was going on and within minutes he was back inside, rushing to get dressed. When I asked, the answer stung and sent shock through my entire body, leaving me speechless. Our nephew had been killed in Iraq. I immediately picked up the phone to call my sister – the mom – and although she answered, neither one of us could speak. I finally managed to squeak out, “I’m so sorry” – and after a period of sobbing and no talk on either end, I said, “We’ll be right there.”
I’ll never forget that night. Although time has softened the sting, the pain is still there – still deep and at times still very raw.
Within a few days, we traveled to Washington D.C. to bury our boy at Arlington. His service was like those you’ve seen on the news and in the movies – full honors from the military. Our grief was paired with a newfound pride and patriotism. Hearing taps played at the funeral of a 25-year-old young man who died in war while serving our Country changes you. Forever. You never again can hear that tune without a lump forming in your throat. The insensitivity and lack of respect shown by others is insulting and is difficult to tolerate.
Memorial Day – I get it, and I’m just the aunt. I’m not a wife who lost her husband; I’m not a mom or dad who lost a son; not a son or daughter who lost a daddy; not a sibling who lost a brother – I’m just an aunt, and yet the pain and sorrow are greater than I would wish for anyone.
Our story is not unlike the story of thousands – and that’s who I think of today. My flag has been hung, we’re planning to barbecue and swim – but not without remembering and appreciating those who have served, especially those who witnessed firsthand the sacrifice of their comrads, and live each day with those gruesome memories; and not without feeling grief for the husbands, the wives, the moms, the dads, the sons and daughters, the brothers and sisters whose lives have been forever changed because they lost a loved one who gave their life in the service of our Country.