Throughout the year, in rain, sun and snow, if you’ve been in a cemetery during a veteran’s funeral, you couldn’t help but notice the men and women dressed in white and black uniforms folding the American Flag, firing off a 21-gun volley or playing Taps. These uniformed people play a very important roll to many military families in this community. And Memorial Day is one of their busiest weekends.
Come Memorial Day weekend, throughout the Tri-County and across the nation, lots of people will take the time to decorate their loved ones’ graves.
And in the early Saturday hours of Memorial Weekend, you may also see a bunch of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts moving along and looking closely at each gravesite in Resthaven and Pinehill cemeteries, stopping ever so often to place an American flag in the ground near the grave. Along with the children’s parents and scout leaders, there will also be a bunch of “old guys” in black and white uniforms moving a lot slower than the kids, but keeping a close eye on them, nonetheless.
Then again, you might see some of those “old guys” out there walking between the graves and placing flags themselves or maybe even standing watch as JROTC cadets cover a whole cemetery.
So, just who are these “old guys” plodding through the graveyards every Memorial Day? They are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard veterans. They are members of the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), or the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and they have pledged to see to it that their fallen comrades are never forgotten.
As more and more of our nation’s Armed Forces pay the ultimate price, these proud veterans — men and women who understand the importance of supporting each other and those that came before them — do whatever they can to make life better for today’s military and the families they leave behind.
There is no monetary value or political gain to be had in the community work these veterans — and their auxiliaries — do. To put it simply, they and their families have done their time and survived. And like all survivors, they feel a need to remember those who went before them and set a good example for those who will follow in their footsteps.
I’ve been out there with the scouts on Memorial Day weekend and watched as the old vets and the small children together stuck a flag into the ground and then straightened up and, in unison, rendered a slow proud salute to the fallen hero. It’s such a touching sight to see. Any other day, these young, vibrant children would not have looked twice at the old men nearly 10 times their age, much less given them the time of day. But this day, there is both pride and respect in the eyes of the boys and girls as they look up at the “old guys” who are taking the kids under their wings and instilling a sense of pride and respect that will stay with these children for years to come.
War is never easy, neither for those out there in it, nor for those left behind. Even the family members closest to these war-torn vets will probably never know the full story of what has come and gone, but again, as with any survivor who feels the need to keep the worst of the story inside, we will always honor and respect them for it.
Remember, not all of America’s heroes are in or have just returned from Afghanistan and the Middle East. A great many of them are here at home. They’re our neighbors, our co-workers, our uncles and aunts, our moms and dads, our grandpas and grandmas or the guy who mows our lawn or bags our groceries.
Memorial Day, like all holidays, is a reminder that there is something special we need to do. So, as we are remembering our lost loved ones, may we also remember those heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice for all our families and perhaps even shake the hand and say “thank you” to a hero who, after all these years, is still looking out for our military and their families.
Bobbie Poynter is the community editor of the Times-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org