Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

When I was a kid, I wrote a patriotic poem and won an award. It was read at an event honoring military veterans, probably on Memorial Day. The title of the poem was something like "What Freedom Means to Me." It was a decent poem, I suppose. There was really only one thing missing -- I had no clue what I was talking about. My words were simply that -- nice, patriotic words set in rhythm and rhyme.

The poem was not written in disrespect, only ignorance. My strongest memory of that day is a sense of disconnect, recognizing that I really didn't understand why this group of old men had gathered, or why they were still thinking about long-past wars. I was missing something, and couldn't quite catch it.

Thirty years later, that day's experience stays with me. To remember, to memorialize -- these come from the same linguistic root, which speaks of being mindful. On this Memorial Day, nurtured by stories of hundreds of veterans, I am far more mind-full -- of veterans whose lives were lost in war, and of those many others whose lives have been forever changed. While I will never fully understand, I am far more connected now to such individuals as those who gathered in that old V.F.W. hall thirty years ago. I respect the experiences and stories which draw them together, and honor their memories of long-past wars.

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