Memorial Day hasn't been the same for me for three years. Three years ago, on the last day of exams at the school I was teaching at, at 7:45 in the morning, I was told to call my mother. At the hospital.
My Dad always had high blood pressure, and was on a variety of medications at different times to try and control his arhythmia. On May 25, 2001, he lost the fight, and went home to be with the Lord.
My Dad was a member of the Air National Guard in Washington DC during the late 50s and early 60s, right before he and my Mom got married. For a while in the early 60s, he seriously thought he was going to be called up and deployed in West Germany. After leaving the Guard, he started working at the Defense Mapping Agency. In his career, he designed mapping specifications that made field maps much easier to read -- many of his specs are still in use today by the US armed forces as well as many NATO member nations.
We had never considered that his military service gave him the right to be burried at a National Cemetary until the day he died. We made the phone calls and found that he was entitled to a military burial. We knew that Dad would have loved that, and so we laid him to rest on May 29, 2001 at Barrancas National Cemetary onboard NAS Pensacola.
I get home close to Memorial Day each year. Today, when we went out to the cemetary to put the flowers, I was as impressed as always with the flags on each grave. I noticed this year that more poeple were there than had been previously -- I guess things are making people more mindful of the service that the military provides.
I wish sometimes that I could just celebrate the start of summer on Memorial Day. I'd love to just cook burgers and dogs, swim a little bit, and relax. After all, it's the first official day of that time of year all teachers love -- summer vacation. But I can't do that. My Dad's memory won't let me, and it won't let me forget the thousands and thousands of others who gave their lives in the service of this country -- and those who continue to do so daily in the Middle East.