Before we knew it as Memorial Day, today at one point in time was referred to as Decoration Day.
I never knew this little tidbit of historical knowledge until I was perusing Google today. But after reading that, it seemed fitting. Especially after I reflected down my life journey to Memorial Weekend 1997. To a moment in time of which I think of every Memorial Day.
That year I had the great fortune to go on a trip to Washington D.C. with my social studies class for that weekend. Now that weekend had been a whirlwind of sightseeing, great food, and tons of fun with lots of friends. But the memory I am referring to is having the honor of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. I had earned the honor by entering an essay contest. I remember my essay topic clearly: saying thank you to those who fell who helped to keep South Korea a free nation so that my parents could adopt me.
When Monday came along we headed out and started our day sightseeing. After lunch we headed to the National Cemetery. Once we arrived myself and three other student essay winners went straight to the Tomb to get our instructions on the protocols of laying the wreath.
The scene at the Tomb, while crowded with American citizens paying their respects, was quiet with a sincere reverence that even I knew at that age was a meaningful gesture. The only sound was of the steps of the soldiers guarding the Tomb and the light drizzle falling on the glistening marble monument. We were taken to an area where we were given instructions by both the security officers and military personnel who were at the site. They explained how we were going to lay the wreath from our Jr. High at the Tomb. An hour later we were lined up and ready to begin.
It was only a five minute process, but I remember each step. The light drizzle continued falling on the wet marble, wrapping us all in a blanket of somber sincerity and gratitude. Our classmates lined the way watching us and waiting for the ceremony to begin. The mat where the guards walked glistened black and their steps were crisp and sharp to the ear. With a few commands of the guards, we began our descent down the steps towards the Tomb, while the soldiers held their posts, guarding the tomb, at each end of the mat. As we began our walk I remember whispering a brief thank you to the men and women we were about to honor. We reached the wreath that stood at the bottom of the stairs and at the instruction of the military guard, who was accompanying us, I and a fellow student laid our hands on the wreath and were led by the guard who carried the wreath and stand across the shining black mat to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. Once we placed the wreath, we returned to the other side of the mat and observed a moment of silence.I remember walking across the mat with my hands resting on the wreath following the soldier who would eventually place the wreath at the tomb.
During that moment, something in me clicked and I really understood what the Tomb represented and what Memorial Day was for. And what it meant to those left behind. I whispered one last thank you before we turned and walked back to our school group.
This is how I remember Memorial Day. Its how I remember what we actually honor today. Its not only the lives lost but those who were left behind. The families, friends and loved ones of those who have died and their sacrifice they have given as well. Its not only to honor those who have died on the battle field but also those who died after they came home and continued to live until time, God or whatever you may believe took them from those plane. Its a day to say thank you to those who have served and passed.
So take a moment and say a prayer for a love one who has passed who served or thank you to a family whose soldier has passed for their service.
Until next time,
Peace, Love, Panda!
In memory of: Agnes “Dolly” Proffer, A3 US Air Force, 1937-2011