Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day Is For Remembering

May is a strange month for me. My wife has her birthday on the 13th, and she loves having her day. On the other hand, we lost our cat, Holmes, last year on May 19th, and I'm still trying to get over it. I hope I haven't beat up on you all too much about her in the last year.

But May has Memorial Day in it every year. And I live in the DC area. You out of towners always see the statue of the Iwo Jima Memorial, shown below

which is also known as the Marine Corps Monument. This is because it was the Marine Corp that fought at Iwo Jima, which was one of the most brutal battles of World War 2. But the following image of the almost 4,000 American graves near Cambridge, England is more in keeping with the idea I am slowing trying to get at, slowly but surely.

If you have ever seen the movie, "Saving Private Ryan", the movie both starts and ends in the Normandy Cemetery, with Matt Damon, as an older gentleman standing at a graveside, and crying, almost out of control. The question he asks his wife, at the end of the movie is, 'was I a good man? Did I lead a good life?' In a very direct way, in combat, the Damon character had asked a Captain, played by Tom Hanks, what the eight men who were sent to pull him out of combat to go home expectedof him. Hank's answer was to lead a good life. Hanks was subsequently killed in front of Damon, and the final scenes were of Damon returning to Hank's grave some number of years later to show Hanks that he had done as he had requested. That was a movie.

Below is where the real action will take place on Memorial Day in D.C., the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

I started college when we were just starting to send advisors to Viet Nam. We had over half a million troops there when I got out. I lost a lot of friends to that war. More came back broken. At high school reunions, the vets gathered in a corner and relived old experiences with people that knew what they went through and didn't need any explanations. If you said anything about not having gone to Viet Nam, they simply said that we didn't miss a thing. To this day, they don't talk about it. It seems it was too horrible. The best I have heard was that they can't understand how something that took 2% of their life had such an effect on such a huge percentage of their life. And then society didn't treat them very well when they got home.

I could go on, but I can tell you this, they still talk about their friends that died there. As if it were yesterday.

And then, I read Odat's blog on Sunday, and one of her reader's named Sarge wrote the following quote from Elanor Roosevelt.

"Dear Lord, lest I continue in my complacent ways, help me to remember that someone died for me today. And if there be war, help me to remember to ask and to answer “am I worth dying for?”

Eleanor Roosevelt

I think it should be obvious now that I have decided that it's time for me to become a better person than I am now. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.


nosjunkie said...

In South-Africa we have youth day and freedom day on these days we remember those who faught in the struggle and the youths who played such a big part.
we used to have the day of blood river in december, known as Dingaans day or Gelofte dag, a day during which we remembered the great battle at blood river, this day however has been given a new name as it seemed unfair to commemorat a day that the boer killed so many zulu warriors that their blood turned the rivers red, in a new south-africa

However I believe it is so important that a country never forget the wars and events that shaped it.
America oozes patriotism because you do not hide your history.
South-Africa has a long way to go because we are ashamed of our history.

enjoy the day

Odat said...

Don't ever apologize about Holmes! You keep on talking about him forever!!! He was part of your life...and you'll never get over it.

What a beautiful tribute....I thank all who have sacrificed for this country...hope I was "worth dying for". That quote is certainly something to think about, isn't it?


Wicked H said...

You are a pretty darn fabulous person currently. If anyone can become better, that would be you!

We miss Holmes too, we will never forget.

A very moving tribute, thank you.

Open Grove Claudia said...

Pema Chodron says that 'changing' is a fundamental act of violence against ourselves. And I agree with her.

Why change into something else? Why not just be your precious, amazing and wonderful self?

You're more than most - less than some - but that's life. In the end, it's love that makes the difference. Like the love of the wonderful creature you call "cat".

Mel said...

Love makes the difference...all times, every time.

Personally thinks you're magnificent as is--but as an ever evolving child of G-d, I understand the desire to be the best YOU you were created to be.

*blessings to you and yours*

WNG said...

I think you're pretty fabulous already, but I applaud the quest. It's one we should all be on.

Don't forget the'll need sustenance!

Say It said...

We hung our flag, thought on those that fought, those that fight, those that supported, through the years.

Wonderful tribute.

Glamourpuss said...

Nicely put. And it's good to remember Homes; she was special.


NoRegrets said...

Very nice post.

cmhl said...

I can't believe it has been a year since you lost Holmes. I know you miss her every day.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I remember when you lost your beautiful Holmes, and I do know how it feels.

One of my earliest memories is of being taken to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier when I was a small child. I remember the Lincoln Memorial and the FBI and the Washington Monument but for some reason, that tomb intrigued me so much and still does.

Thank you for sharing the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. She is someone we would all do well to emulate.

Mouse said...

This was very thought-provoking
I've been asking myself recently if I am the sort of person my father would have been proud to have called his daughter...
Hand on heart, probably not
But I can be and that's a start
N'est-ce pas?

PS Normandy is an amazing place if one wishes to visit museums, cemeteries and war memorials

Amazing and very, very humbling

Echomouse said...

Here's how I know you are a great person already - definitely worth dying for....

You have friends (commenters here I mean) who quote Pema Chodron. I've never seen anyone in blogland refer to her except me. That's something.

You have friends here whose favourite flowers are peonies, which were my Mom's favourite. They were at her bedside when she passed. I love them but couldn't see through the tears to comment on that post.

Most of all, through you and this blog, I've met wonderful people who already knew you. People you introduced me to via your posts. And I so like and enjoy them all.

I agree with Odat...don't apologize for grieving and missing Holmes. You've - we've both - had a rough couple of years. As I type, my Teddy is creeping up onto the chair forcing me to make room...I now tell Teddy all about you and Judy and Holmes. :)

I guess i'm just trying to say you're one of the best people I've ever met. You're already great. {HUG}

M@ said...

Memorial Day is when I hooked up w/ an ex-girlfriend ten years ago so I've got bad memories, too.

James Burnett said...

Beautifully written, Monty.

When I was a kid, except for the time we lived outside the U.S., my parents used to take my sister and I to D.C. every Memorial Day to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Somber, but enjoyable nonetheless.

The CEO said...

I thank you all for your wonderful comments.

Lee, it's always good to see you here.

ODAT, I can never forget Holmes, her ashes, and her sisters are 2 feet away from me where I sit in the family room. Holmes' ashes will be buried with me, her sister's with Judy. Not that we were close with them.

Wicked, we have got to get together, no matter what it takes. I mean it.

Claudia, you are so very good for me. Thank you.

Mel, it's always good seeing you. Thank you for stoping by.

Wng, thank you. You are becoming very inportant and influential. Thank you.

Say It, you live with a man who believes in tradition, and who served, and understands. And so do you. You can teach me.

Puss, that's a huge compliment, coming from as good a writer as you are. Thank you. And thank you for remembering Holmes.

NoR, thank you very much.

CMHL, you were so involved with us right to the end. Thank you so much for being there for me when I needed you. You didn't have to be here physically to have a critically important impact.

Susan, Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the great people of our time. For years I thought that she was the one who originally said, "it's better to light a candle than curse the darkness" and she had me right there.

mouse, your father had a lot to be proud of, in you. Thank you for stopping by again.

Carrie, I am made better by you. A lot better. Thank you.

M@, I'm sorry that you remember such a bad experience. Maybe next year, we'll have a BBQ and make a good experience!

James, the Tomb is one of the most memorable experiences anyone can have. Bring Mrs. B and we'll all go back for a visit, and also stop by Kennedy's Tomb and the eternal light.