Monday, May 27, 2013

Thoughts on Remembrance



As you prepare for your day off on Monday, if you're not remembering sacrifice on behalf of the nation, its citizens, values, allies, or the men and women who wear the same uniform, please call it what it is: a day off.

(The sales "honoring" Memorial Day that do nothing for veterans, the Wounded Warrior Project, etc., are far more offensive than anything else.)

- Dustin Kunz

That over there is Dustin Kunz. We went to undergrad together. We kinda lost touch as is prone to happen with college friends. At some point the dude joined the military. I'm not sure when/how that happened. But on occasion I check in on him in Facebook. I really have no idea what he is up to, how he is, etc. That said, this post of his came up at the top of my Facebook feed when I logged in the other day...right before I took my Memorial Day vacation. Dustin did a good job of describing this good old American holiday and how it is observed in 2013.

Rewind over 110 years before I was born. Three years after the Civil War ended were the first official gatherings to remember fallen soldiers of that particular war. It was initially called "Decoration Day." It was established for May 30th, because there should be flowers in every state by that point to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. In the 1960s and 70s Decoration Day went through several changes and both expanded to include casualties of other wars and became today's Memorial Day.

Today it is a great day off to buy things at Home Depot and enjoy some grilling at the lake. And, like my friend Dustin said, I am down for that. We just need to call it what it is...a day off. If my memory serves me correctly, that is what is happening to the left over here with my friends Laurie, Steve, Joy and TJ. We gathered together, Steve cut off his index finger. He came back and I made him grill dinner while we enjoyed frothy bevs. Then we enjoyed one of my favorite films, Waking Ned Devine. And for those of you worried I am a little alcoholic, the whiskey was only for Ned purposes...and it was back in seminary. Everyone drank is seminary!

But the original intent of Memorial Day wasn't for us to enjoy ourselves. It was to remember the men and women across all wars who died in the line of service. (Now, before you think I am disregarding those who live...that is what Veteran's Day is for...though, and I think we are learning this: we should always be thankful for men and women's service time.) So, that is what I wanted to take the time to do today. 

Uncle Greg
Over the weekend with Flavius and Gigi I was reminded that I had three uncles (at least) who served in the military. Uncles Greg and Alan Lyman and Uncle Joe Love. Of those three, only Joe is alive. Greg passed away when I was in high school and Alan actually died June 13, 1968, by hostile fire in South Vietnam. Now for those of you who are good at math or just happen to know my age, that means I never met Uncle Alan. But Alan was apparently a good dude...good enough for one of my cousins to be named after him.

Greg & Alan were the oldest two children of my grandmother Taylor. Those two and my aunt Karen were born before Grandma met Grandpa, who had Merlin from a previous marriage. Together they had 5 more kiddos. Yep...9 kids in that family. From the stories I hear Greg and Alan were the best of friends. They did everything together. Little league, school, join the military. And oddly the world is even smaller than you think. Who was on Greg & Alan's little league team? My uncle Joe. He and Greg even graduated high school together. (I doubt either ever saw the day where Buck and Cynthia would have a kid together!)

Alan was named after Uncle Alan.
As I said, my cousin Alan, over there to the left, was named after my uncle Alan. In a way that makes him a living remembrance. For my uncle Les, his siblings and to some extent, us cousins, Alan allows us to recall Alan. It is a pretty interesting practice, isn't it? It is something even the Catholic Church consistently does. They rename popes...and monks after those of old they wish to remember.

And what this does, in a strange sense, is extend a memory beyond the gravestone. It's like a story. We tell stories to extend memories. Most of us know the stories of Moses, Abraham and David. Or to play on names, most of us also know the stories of Grandma Moses, Abraham Lincoln and, well, King David may be the most famous David there is. Stories remind us of things, whether it be history or life lessons. And though we tell ourselves things like, "forget the past and strive toward what is ahead," memories, history, and the past should not wholly be lost on us. There is a reason that we take a day in May to remember. And more important, people (who lived among us, who married among us, who played baseball with our brothers and sisters) are the reasons we take a day in May and remember.

And for me those people are Uncle Alan, a man I never knew; and Uncle Greg, who lived well beyond his war; and also, Uncle Joe who continues to live today...and there are also men and women like Aaron Taylor, Jake Wardell, Mike Probst and Byron Remhert who came back from Iraq, but lost friends in the process. And regardless of political persuasion, or philosophies on wars many are the losses of great men and women who have succumbed to war, and many are the memories that are worth stopping to think about on a day like today.

So, Kunz...I skip the sale at Home Depot today, and write a little about my uncle. And hope that others join me in simply remembering.

No comments:

Post a Comment