Please take a minute this Memorial Day weekend to remember all those men and women who have served and sacrificed in the United States military throughout this nation's existence. They deserve your gratitude and your respect.
As most of you already know I'm a veteran of the Vietnam War and served two tours there (1966 and 1968). Maybe it's my own hyper-sensitivity to the subject, but over the intervening years it has often pained me deeply to see how so many people seem oblivious to the real meaning of this holiday weekend. Apparently, their sole understanding of Memorial Day is wrapped up in partying hardy, camp outs, or just plain kicking back.
That's all fine and well in the sense that everyone is entitled to have a good time. I don't expect people to wear sackcloth and ashes and sit in a darkened room contemplating the sacrifices of others for three or four straight days. But it doesn't hurt to take a moment or two to raise your glass and make a toast to those who put their lives at risk so that others could remain free. Forget the politics or whether the conflict those veterans served in was right or wrong. That doesn't matter in the end. What matters is that they served and sacrificed, in both war and in peace.
I was fortunate enough to return from my combat tours alive and well, physically if not mentally and emotionally. Others did not share that luxury, including three I knew well. Like many others they now lay beneath manicured lawns, forgotten by most, but never by me. Take a moment to thank them for giving everything they had, including their young lives. They deserve that much, don't you think?
On the positive side, I have remained in contact with four of my Vietnam buddies who have all gone on to live productive lives with careers and families. So Gene Zachary, Jimmy De La Cruz, Larry Newell, and Denni Davis I'm thinking of you guys this weekend. I remember what we endured, what stand-up dudes you were (and still are), and how much I came to depend on your steadiness and support during those difficult days so long ago. I am more grateful than you know to still have each of you in my life. As for those we left behind, I hope they are wrapped in the eternal light of God's bosom and are finally at peace with smiles on their faces.
You know, our young men and women are still out there fighting and dying. I ask that you remember them and the career military personnel as well. Pray for their safe return home, will you?
If you yourself served, or you have a relative, son, or daughter who has served or is serving now, please accept my heartfelt gratitude to one and all. Finally, if the spirit moves you, why not name them in the comments section of this post so that we can all acknowledge their service and sacrifice?
Enjoy your long weekend but please remember what's behind it.
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2014
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