Memorial Day has grown to mean more to me the older I become. Despite the fact that I still love having friends over for cookouts, enjoying great conversation and decorating in red, white and blue, the day makes me stop and reflect.
Although I have not lost a loved one who has served, I know a father who lost his son – an Army Ranger – on his last deployment before retiring. Another friend who lost his fellow Naval pilot. And my husband lost a college friend that was training for a mission. I’m sure many more of my friends and family have their own stories that can be shared of men and women giving their lives for our country.
My grandpa (on the right) was in the Army serving as a platoon Sargent in General Patton’s 3rd Army during World War II. He served 40 months overseas in the Fifth Division known as the Red Diamond Division. While serving he received the Purple Heart, combat infantrymen’s medal and five battle stars.
It wasn’t until his passing that we saw the photos of him in his uniform and read the countless love letters he sent to my grandma. The war truly affected him in ways that my family will never know. He saw pain. He saw suffering. He saw death.
What we saw though was a gentle man, dedicated to his family who gave great hugs and who knew the sacrifice so many others gave to be a part of this great nation.
This past Saturday my son and husband volunteered along with other Boy Scouts to help set up for the Memorial Day Weekend Luminaria at Fredericksburg National Cemetery. I could see it in both of them how proud they were to help.
Photo by Rebecca Cunningham
Saturday evening as I walked among the glowing luminaries throughout the cemetary, I thought of the volunteers who placed each of the two bags on the graves. I thought of the thousands of soldiers who gave their lives for our country. I thought of the families who lost their loved ones.
As I enjoy good food, great friends and festive decor, I am reminded to stop and remember all who gave their greatest sacrifice for us to be free.