So as the family’s funeral representative, you did what was required for your loved one who is now gone. You carried out funeral plans, insured that the eulogy writer prepared a wonderful written memorial and appreciated the wonderful service by the funeral clergy which was delivered before a backdrop of beautiful funeral flowers just as requested in the decedent’s written funeral plan. After all was done, you directed the payment of all funeral expenses and closed out all remaining requirements of your duty for the family.
Three months later, you decide to go and visit the gravesite now that the marker and headstone are finally in place. Standing in front of the impressive granite headstone, you suddenly realize that his funeral plot is so bare. There are no flowers or other indication that anyone has been to visit. And you realize just how quickly the dead are forgotten as the living must go forward with their lives. It’s not that they mean to, it’s just that with life’s requirements and things to be done, the best laid plans for remembrance often fade like the sunset.
This coming Saturday is Armed Forces Day, a day when America traditionally celebrated the American military for all that they do to protect us and keep us safe. It is not just for the dead or the wounded or even those who fought in wars for their country. No, this is a day designed to honor the composite force of men and women and the military institutions themselves for what they mean to us. In many respects, it has been forgotten in recent generations.
In years gone by, Armed Forces Day was a really big deal. Communities around the country held parades, usually on Saturday morning, and townspeople planning on shopping downtown timed their trips to first attend the parade and then shop. Military units were invited to participate, local bands showed up dressed to the hilt and even the police and fire departments entered marching units in dress uniforms. The reviewing stand for judging performance was decked out in red, white and blue bunting rivaling a Fourth of July parade and many in the crowd wore red, white and blue while sporting American flags. Patriotic pride clearly filled the air.
I had the good fortune as a boy to personally participate in this wonderful parade of support for our military. The first time, as a Cub Scout, I remember making sure my mom did a special pressing of my uniform as I wanted it to be perfect. I stood tall and proud as our group, normally mischievous and active, stood at silent attention waiting to step out. I think it was right then when I knew I wanted to be a soldier when I grew up.
Later, in the first year of high school before I became active in sports, I marched as a member of the marching band. In our blue and gold uniforms with gleaming instruments, we all felt a chill go down our back as we stepped out on the avenue at the beginning of the parade route and saw the huge throngs of people watching our every step. When we broke into a John Philip Sousa march the crowd cheered and we played as well and as loud as we ever performed. At the end of the long parade, we were hot and tired but happy and we felt extremely proud to be Americans and to have our military to keep us free.
Aside from some American Legion functions and events in heavily military family communities, most of us no longer even know that this day is on the calendar. And it’s sad to note that since the anti-war movement became so outspoken during the Vietnam conflict, those who give dearly of themselves, even up to and including death for their American brothers and sisters, fail to be recognized on this occasion. I’m afraid it’s just a sad sign of the times and as fewer and fewer young Americans experience the privilege of serving in uniform it becomes easy to forget the cause which many no longer fully understand or appreciate.
We’re going to have another chance soon to celebrate and honor our military, but this next opportunity is for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, dying for their country and their countrymen. Memorial Day is right around the corner and while it is positive that more tend to remember this day than any other military-related day, it is really sad that only after death do we as a nation seem to take real notice of all that our brave fighting men and women do.
So, on this Armed Forces Day I ask that each of you take a moment and say thanks to all of our fellow citizens for taking the time and sacrificing a portion of their lives so that we might remain free. God bless them and God bless the United States of America. May her flag forever fly proudly over a land that remains free.
Book page: www.amazon.com/author/jamesdick
Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, a Best Read for 2014 selection of American Pet Magazine