Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Sober Reflections On Memorial Day
The day after Memorial Day is a good time for reflection. On Memorial Day itself, the hordes of tourists packing up at the end of their three-day weekend, the lingering odor of burnt chicken, the flash of anger that Google couldn’t come up with a clever logo for Memorial Day like they do for even slightly significant events, these are among the things that sabotage the inner quiet that I need for reflection.
I also need time with Memorial Day. Time to find my own place in it, even after all these years. Primarily, I thank those who served, suffered, died, to keep us free. After serving over 21 years in the Air Force, am I one of them? Or am I always just one of the grateful, thankful that they did the hard work? Upon sober reflection – over fifteen years without drinking a drop of alcohol – I’m one of the grateful.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud of the job I did in the Air Force. I often worked long hours, was tired, uncomfortable – day-long bus rides in Korea will do that to you – but I did that as a civilian, too. The month I worked stripping edgings at Bojock Lumber Company, Manchester, California, while I was on leave from the Air Force in 1963, was physically more dangerous than anything I encountered in my Air Force career.
However, I like to be thanked for my service, because it tells me something I like to know about the person thanking me. They treasure their freedom and liberty, and they know that it didn’t come free. They’re thanking me because I’m a symbol, a representative, of all who served with me, who are serving now, and who served before me. It’s a long line, and if it’s ever broken, mankind will be cursing their chains and slavery, perhaps for all time.