Memorial Day is to Remember

“Above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.”

~Ronald Reagan

I have wonderful childhood memories of the 1960’s. To mention a few: my parents renting a small carousel and having it delivered to our backyard for my birthday party, eating Jiffy Pop Popcorn while watching black and white movies of Tarzan, Jane and the chimpanzee, Cheeta, on a Saturday afternoon with my Dad and brother…so excited to have our brand new TV in amazing black and white “color.”

A most significant memory I have of the ‘60’s is being at elementary school when my teacher announced to us that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. School ended early that day. I remember my mother picking me up from school, tears streaming down her face, crying and crying; sitting in front of that black and white TV with my family, listening and watching Walter Cronkite retell the sad and terrifying news.

A lighter memory is watching The Ed Sullivan Show…a family favorite until the Beatles where showcased. My parents thought the Beatles were “long-haired rebellious punks” but I thought John, Paul, George and Ringo were the grooviest!

This Memorial Day, I am thinking about 1966. One of my friends, that lived on the next block in my neighborhood, rode her bike to my house to tell me her father was home from Vietnam. I was young and didn’t understand what the war in Vietnam was about but I had several friends whose fathers were soldiers in the Army. I knew that their fathers were brave and heroic.

My friend’s father had been home for just a few short hours, and she wanted me to meet him. I remember that he was bigger than life to me. Still dressed in his army fatigues, sitting on a kitchen stool with his beloved wife snuggled in his lap. He was so happy to be home with his family. I remember his kind smile, his military hair cut and his big black army boots and again, I wondered what Vietnam was like and wanted to ask him…but I was afraid to. Everything I had heard about this war sounded horrifying. Why stop their happiness to ask questions.

And then the day came when I learned the sadness of war; the day that the war in Viet Nam hit close to home. My best friend, Janet, and I were inseparable while in the fifth grade. One day in March of 1966, the principal of our school came to our classroom and asked Janet to come out in the hall. Her expression was scared and I was too because when the principal called you out in the hall, it meant bad news. Janet did not come back to class and this troubled me. Our teacher told us that Janet’s father had been killed in a helicopter crash in South Vietnam. I remember crying.

Years and years go by…while on vacation in Washington, D.C., with my husband and children, we visit The Vietnam Veterans Memorial—The Wall. I wanted to find the name of Janet’s father, Harlow Gary Clark, Jr. I found it! My fingers gently touched his name etched in the marble and remembered his sacrifice and the loss that Janet felt…probably continues to feel.

 LTC Harlow Gary Clark, Jr., is honored on Panel 5E, Row 128 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

This is just one of many memories to honor today. Many of my adult friends, Moms and Dads, have lost a son or daughter in war. Friends have lost a spouse in combat for our freedom and their children a parent.

137 years later, Memorial Day remains one of America’s most cherished patriotic observances. The spirit of this day has not changed – it remains a day to honor those who died defending our freedom and democracy. ~Doc Hastings, U.S. Representative

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you?’ ~William Arthur Ward

So, I end this post with, “Thank You” and the memory etched in my mind as though it were marble, never to forget.

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