Today is a hallowed day. A precious day. A bittersweet day to appreciate and realize that my every breath of freedom was bought with the last breath of a soldier. And I never want to take that for granted.
My father served in the Marines. My uncle was a pilot who flew Marine Force One for Kennedy and LBJ. We only bought American cars and American made tractors and every tool in the shed was Craftsman. My father was a proud American who designed, engineered, patented and sold his oil rig parts all over the world. But he manufactured them right in our hometown of Porter, Texas. And I’m damn proud of him for it.
All my life I’ve quivered when they played the Star Spangled Banner. I even wore a sequined American Flag Jacket to my senior prom! I’ve loved this country with every beat of my heart since I was big enough to realize that not everyone grew up as free as me and with every opportunity at my fingertips just because of this great nation we lived in. But Memorial Day was never really that special to me until…
My first baby was born. She was all of four months old and I wanted her to grow up knowing what an incredible gift it was to be born in this country. I stumbled upon a Memorial Day service being held at our local cemetery and we went all decked out in our red, white, and blue.
We met plenty of WW2 veterans and Vietnam vets as well as lots of family members of those who had served. The list of recently deceased veterans had me bawling like a baby as I realized that day by day our nation’s greatest treasures were slipping into eternity. And I vowed right then to never miss another Memorial Day service again.
So every year for the last 20 years we have piled into our van and driven 30 minutes north to pay some respect to those who have given us their all. Each year that list of recently departed has grown longer and the WW2 vets are rapidly leaving this life. Veterans my girls had exchanged notes of gratitude with for nearly two decades have finally met their Maker and I cry harder each year. Last year the emcee for the last 20 years who had that unforgettable Boston accent was no longer leading the ceremonies. And I cried. Mr. Rood, a part of that Greatest Generation who founded the cemetery directly after WW2 as a place to lay the local heroes to rest passed away two years ago. And I cried. And every year they pass out paper poppies and the Boy Scouts set the chairs out and the ROTC carries the colors and the guns shoot off a salute and the doves fly free from their cage and I cry.
I cry because I’m grateful. I cry because it’s my solemn prayer to make every day count. To make my children’s lives count. To make the opportunities they bought with their sacrifices count.
[bctt tweet=”Let’s make the opportunities they bought with their sacrifices count. #MemorialDay”]
And now with all my dear Gold Star Families and friends, I have their personal heartbreak that motivates me to make sure they know their loss was Not for Nuthin’.
I hope, if I have done ANYTHING in this endeavor over the last four years of writing this blog and serving America’s Gold Star Families that every one of my readers takes the time today to go pay honor and respect at a local cemetery for their freedom. Because… #FreedomIsntFree