Memorial Day Children

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Memorial Day 2012

I wrote this memoir ten Memorial Days ago. Now, more than twenty years later, the day remains fresh in my memory as though it happened today. Partly, this is because it has happened on more than one Memorial Day. I hope you celebrate with your family in the spirit of what Memorial Day truly means. It is far more than a bank holiday, beer and barbecue.

With one little hand nestled in mine and the other wrapped tightly around ten red carnations, my daughter was pensive as we walked through the cemetery. Both sides of the walkway through the center stood forty flags, as sentinels over their defenders. Each and every white soapstone headstone shone stark against the lushness of the green grass and vividness of the tiny flags planted at their bases.

Arlington National Cemetery, VirginiaShe slowed and then stopped completely. I quizzically gazed down at her as she released my hand and walked silently between the stones. She stopped before one, appearing to read the inscription. Her little knees touched the dewy grass beside the stone, and her tiny hand reached out to touch it. She took one bloom and placed it tenderly between the stone and the flag.

Over the next fifteen minutes, she roamed, questing for the perfect places. Soon, her blossoms distributed, she came back to me without a word and took my hand. I asked her, “Are you finished?” The words which came from her mouth would etch in my mind forever. With compassion and wisdom no one expects from adults, a three-year-old changed my vision of patriotism.

“Momma, these people loved America enough for us to be free.”

I was breathless. A tear slid down my cheek, as I knelt to hold her. Out of the mouths of babes come the most unabashed innocence. She pulled away and wiped the tear from my face. “Momma, may I have your flowers?”

Opening the bag I had brought, I handed her ten more blooms. “Do you want me to go with you?” I wanted to know what she was seeing.

“No, Momma. I can do it.”

With that, she walked to the other side of the cemetery to repeat her earlier actions. I went to the stones where she had laid the first blossoms. I knew she could not read all the words, but she had placed a flower on the stones which bore the names of husbands and wives, forever to lie together.

“I need one more.” She startled me standing beside my elbow. We walked back over to the bag and opened the last bundle of flowers. She held them tightly and took my hand. “I want you to read me this one.”

Near the far fence, she led me to a spot when the markers were cordoned into a rectangle, and the stones were laid flat. A statue of an angel stood amid the small stones. She walked up to the angel and lay the flowers at her feet. “What is she saying, Momma?”

With tears in my eyes, I read the inscription to her. “To our fallen brethren who will not be brought home, we ask this angel to grace your memories, your bravery and your sacrifice. May she grant our prayer that one day we never add more charges to her care.”

Standing in silence, she nestled against my leg in the shadow of the angel.

Many more blossoms would we bring over the years. Friends and siblings would join in our pilgrimage. Poignant, reverent and grateful is our family’s celebration of Memorial Day.

~~~~~~~~~~

I will never forget.

To those who serve, have served and have fallen, you hold a special place in my heart. Your service is not in vain, is not forgotten. You are forever in my memory.

© Red Dwyer 2007-2012
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33 Comments

  1. This post turns the screen blurry. Can’t imagine how that happens.

    Reply
    • Red

       /  May 27, 2012

      It does the same thing to me. I had a hard time transcribing it without a large box of tissues…for the screen.

      Reply
  2. Kids get a lot more than we think they do. Very touching.
    muddledmom recently posted..The Saga of a Sleepless SonMy Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  May 27, 2012

      Thank you, K. I am always amazed at the wisdom they show. Glad to see you. Happy Memorial Day.

      Reply
  3. OK I’m wiping tears away and typing VERY badly!

    That is one precious child you have there Red – and a wonderful mum! 🙂

    Love and hugs always!

    Prenin.
    prenin recently posted..Saturday – the Eurovision FinalMy Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  May 27, 2012

      Since she was a wee tot I called her my angel. I still do. {HUGZ} Red.

      Reply
  4. Very touching. It is unfortunate that we, worldwide, aren’t more serious about ending the kinds of situations that lead to wars.
    Binky recently posted..Diet MonitorMy Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  May 27, 2012

      I feel the same way. Her husband will be deployed to Afghanistan in a few months. My cousin was in the first Gulf War. Daddy fought in Korea. My grandfather in WWII. I am tired of the sending.

      Reply
      • Grandfather? Well that’s interesting.
        Binky recently posted..Right Way Wrong WayMy Profile

        Reply
        • Red

           /  May 28, 2012

          One day, I will post some of the things I learned from him about WWII. He was a very young man then, and had quite a large number of adventures which all eventually became philosophical lessons worth learning.
          Red.

          Reply
  5. Damn, my glasses fogged up again.

    Reply
    • Red

       /  May 27, 2012

      Big box is next to the screen. Happy Memorial Day, John.

      Reply
  6. Hi Red,

    What does Memorial Day celebrate?

    Best wishes

    Reply
    • Red

       /  May 28, 2012

      It is our remembrance day for all the fallen veterans. We have Veteran’s Day for the war survivors and Memorial Day for those who gave their lives in our Armed Forces. Although we do celebrate our peace time veterans on Veteran’s Day, we also have Armed Services Day to honor the peace time veterans, administration and support staff. For those of us with generation after generation in the armed forces, Memorial Day is a solemn day which the riff-raff of our country pollute with drunken barbecues and a paid day off. You can see by my comment to Binky why this day is really important for me.

      Reply
  7. A very moving true story Red
    and thank you for sharing those
    most treasured moments…

    Have a wonderful day
    today my great friend 🙂

    Androgoth XXx

    Reply
  8. Damn, knew I shouldn’t read this one. But did anyway.

    We forget so easily all the losses, unless they are part of our own personal history.
    Valentine Logar recently posted..Spare a Job, Brother?My Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  May 28, 2012

      I’ve not lost anyone close to me. Merely sending them to take the chance is horrific enough for me to never forget.

      Reply
  9. No matter where in the world we are , the memory of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice will always be etched on our hearts, I still feel the emotions written in your words after all my army career and memories of lost Vietnam Vets. A beautiful blog in tribute and a shared moment in time.
    Aussie Ian
    aussieian2011 recently posted..Once in a Forest of LoveMy Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  May 28, 2012

      Thank you for your service, Ian. And for your beautiful comment.

      Reply
  10. My eyes are are welled with tears.
    Thank you for remembering them by posting this…it is very moving.
    Love and Hugs xx
    Deb recently posted..Hank From Addanac CityMy Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  May 28, 2012

      A very happy Memorial Day to you, Deb. {HUGZ} Red. xxx

      Reply

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