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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.

Image result for half mast flag soldier

Your battles inspired me – not the obvious material battles but those that were fought and won behind your forehead.  
James Joyce

This is to the soldier on the last battle field.

In my mind, it’s like the scene from “Gladiator” with our fallen hero in the Coliseum. The lady he’d loved and lost stood in front of his body and said to the crowd: “He was a soldier of Rome. Honor him!”

My father-in-law passed away last week, and I’ve been wondering what his journey to the next world might be like.

Admittedly, I’ve got no idea what happens after we leave this earth. I’d like to think it will be more of a “Homegoing” than a time for sackcloth and ashes.

A friend once told me she believes that we go to the place we’ve always regarded as home, even if we’ve never been there.

For my mother, it would have been a log cabin. She always spoke of her dream of owning a little cabin in the woods with a fireplace and wood-burning stove.

For my father, it might have been the bar from “Cheers.” He just loved that show, and his favorite joke became a call-and-response tradition for us every time I came for a visit. Dad: “If anyone calls for me, Coach, I don’t want to be bothered.” Me: “Who does?”

For my father-in-law, it could, paradoxically, be on the field of war. While he hated the fighting, he felt most like himself there. As a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, he was respected by his peers. He knew how to be a soldier. Get the job done. It made sense to him.

Life was clearer as a soldier. Here is the objective. Over there, the enemy. We’re doing this for those we left back home.

When he came home, he had to re-learn how not to be at war, and it wasn’t easy.

For our soldier who took the journey home, we honor you. May the angels stand at attention when you arrive. You fought the good fight, and now, rest. At ease.

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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