I think of my dad, specifically his dog tags and the photograph of him in his Air Force uniform. So young, so very young. So handsome and full of possibilities, hopes, dreams and wishes.
I can’t really explain it, but each time I look at it, I want, more than anything else, to weep … for him, for others, for things I don’t understand. And many times I have done just that.
Wept like there would be no tomorrow.
I think of the privileges I am afforded and how many of them were dependent upon men and women like him.
I think of Mr. Salley, who fought on the beaches of Normandy, France. He, who, with tears in his aged eyes, told me his story. It was horrific, the things he related … the tragedies, the loss, the hurt and the fears that he faced and then, through the sheer necessity to survive, overcame as best he could.
But the memories remained, always remained, forever haunting him. I know this because he told me so.
The death he saw, felt and experienced …
The pain and anguish of each tear that fell from his old and wizened eyes struck me with devastating clarity. I cried, unashamedly, with him as it broke my heart to hear it.
But I needed to hear it. Needed to feel it. Needed to understand the depth of the sacrifice.
I was, in that single moment, forever changed.
He revisited Normandy a few years back and brought me some sand from the beach on which he fought.
I am thankful beyond measure that I had the chance to hear his story and know the man behind the memories before he passed away.
The sand is one of my most treasured possessions.
That and my dad’s dog tags.
I would give up every photograph I have ever taken, every sunrise I’ve ever witnessed, every mountain peak on which I have ever stood simply to keep these two things in my possession.
I remember my friends who have served, who still serve. Who risk everything they hold dear for strangers; faces they will never see.
It never ceases to amaze me how much people are willing to sacrifice for their country, their loved ones, their way of life, our future and the freedoms that we so blithely take for granted.
I remember them as Memorial Day looms in the next few hours. I remember their faces, their smile, their laughter, their stories.
I remember their pride in what they have had a part in preserving and again, the memories they carry within themselves.
Memories no one should have to relive; burdens no one should have to carry.
It shames me to think that I too often forget to remember them. I will try harder.
They gave everything so that we could have the one, most wonderful thing there ever was to have.
God Bless America.