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As SueBE said in her post this morning, today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day of remembrance for everyone who has died while serving in the armed forces.

In 1868, future president, James Garfield, spoke eloquently about the importance of the holiday at Arlington National Cemetery.

“I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion,” he said. “If silence is ever golden, it must be beside the graves of fifteen-thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung.”

Today I learned that Arlington is on the grounds of Confederate General, Robert E. Lee’s, former home. When I read that, it gave me hope that negative situations can be re-purposed into something deeply meaningful. Maybe someday, this contentious time in our history will be transformed into a learning experience and we can find our way back to civility again.

“When I’m out here in the country, I tend to be among people who think differently than I do,” SueBE said in her post. Even though they might be on different ends of the political spectrum, everyone walking through the woods is a human being. What values are worth fighting and dying for? The freedom to express yourself, even if not everyone agrees with you.

Let’s take a moment to honor the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us all.

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I know.  I know.  One Memorial Day we should be thinking about the sacrifices of our military.  Me?  I tend to think about what they made those sacrifices for.  First and foremost – freedom.

My family celebrates Memorial Day by making a three hour trek into southern Missouri.  We walk gravel roads beneath towering trees.  This weekend I even got to see a bald eagle in flight along the edge of a lake.

When I’m out here in the country, I tend to be among people who think differently than I do.  This is a very conservative area.  You see a lot of Confederate flags but you also see Bible verses on yard signs.  When he was small, my son was pulled from the river by a man whose name we never learned.

The men in this part of the state are tanned but it isn’t a swimming pool tan. It is a farmer’s tan.  They work the land.  They work on vehicles.  And some of them drive hours every day to reach the only jobs they can find.

It is also an area with spotty cell service so when you are out an about and among people, you interact.  People aren’t looking at their phones.  They are snapping selfies or checking Snapchat.

There’s a freedom down here that I don’t experience in many other places.  A freedom from being constantly on top of my electronic task masters.  A freedom to experience sun and sky, trees and fields, and red gravel roads.

–SueBE

 

If you’ve looked at the headlines today, you’ve probably seen news about young children being taken from immigrant parents, complaints about President Trump, and his daughter Ivanka.  You have already spent some time thinking about other turmoils in this world – environmental problems, those seeking asylum and more.

Frankly, it’s overwhelming.

Take a deep breath.  Now raise up your eyes.  Above the turmoil and the crisis are a group of men and women who have heard a calling from God. They have signed on to serve their country.  You may not agree with where they serve or the actions they take, but these men and women are the bridge that carries many of us across danger.  

They fight our wars and offer assistance in natural disasters.  Their leaders have even petitioned the Federal Government regarding climate change. Memorial Day belongs to them.

–SueBE

“Thanks for your service.”

I’ve said this on occasion to soldiers in uniform that have crossed my path, and most of them seemed to appreciate it.

But I just found out that some veterans actually hate to hear those words, particularly on Memorial Day. Hearing the words, “thanks for your service,” conjures memories of fallen comrades.

In some cases, even saying, “Happy Memorial Day” to a veteran can strike a painful nerve. “It’s not happy,” said Rene Kicklighter, 37, who retired from the Army National Guard. “It’s somber. I try to flip the lens on the conversation a bit and gently remind them what it’s really about.”

Along these lines, a handshake is a friendly greeting that’s meant to be welcoming. The problem is, as this doctor reminds us, shaking hands is an effective way of transmitting germs, so he’s started a “hand-shake free zone” in his hospital.

We intend something positive and it ends up as a negative.

As hard as it is for those of us who want to express our appreciation, sometimes saying nothing is the highest form of respect. A nod to a stranger who has served, or a hand on the shoulder of a friend might be the best way to convey the message on this solemn, sacred day.

To those we’ve lost in the service of our country, I respectfully offer an homage with this moment of silence.

Every time I click on a viral video of surprise soldier homecomings, I tell myself it’s not going to get to me, but it does. Every time!

Of course, on this Memorial Day, we remember the members of the military services who never made it home. It’s also a time to reflect on the ones who did come back, only to find that the war at home was still underway.

My father-in-law fought in Korea and Vietnam, and even though he came back alive, so many things had changed for him that it seemed some parts of his life had died.

He kept extending his tenure in the army in order to ensure that his family was taken care of. They lived on an army base, so housing, healthcare and education were provided. Even though he had little formal education of his own, all five of his children graduated college.

But the long deployments away from home affected his relationship with his family, and when he finally did return, it didn’t feel like home anymore. He felt like a stranger to his wife, and for many reasons, seemed to be regarded by his own kids as an enemy.

In the military, there’s a saying: “No one should be left behind.”

Generally speaking, I’m not in favor of military action in any situation. It doesn’t resolve the problem; oftentimes, it only exacerbates it. But I am in favor of the soldiers who put their lives on the line in many different ways. Some gave all. All gave some. Now it’s our turn to give something back to them, not the least of which is respect.

Today, at Arlington Cemetery, President Obama said everything that I’ve been trying to say in this post:

“Truly remembering, truly honoring these fallen Americans means being there for their parents and spouses and children,” the President said. “Truly remembering means that after our fallen heroes gave everything to get their battle buddies home, we have to make sure they get everything they have earned — from good health care to good jobs. And we have to do better. Our work is never done.”

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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