As Memorial Day moves nearer, I reflect on the loss of my Grandfather. He served in the Navy in World War II and in the Air Force during the Korean conflict. He was someone we all looked up to and respected him not only as our Grandfather but as a Patriot that had risked all for family and country. My father revered his wife’s father on a different level. Their bond was something that could only be shared by those who had experienced that same type of bond with comrades under harrowing circumstances.
It was not possible to visit my Grandfather’s grave just one year after we laid him to rest. I decided the next best thing to do was to visit some of his comrades, so I made the short trip to the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery. The quiet expanses of lawn dotted with rows and rows of matching tombstones. The limousine in the distance reminded me of a conversation concerning military funerals that I had with a friend that drives limousines for Saratoga Luxury Limo. I saw him shortly after my Grandfather died. Based on what he told me about the number of trips he is hired to make to the cemetery each month, it was hard to wrap my head around the enormity of military funerals that take place daily all over our country, not only at military cemeteries, bur private cemeteries as well.
Grandfather’s funeral ceremony was such a solemn event and it was hard to find a dry eye among the crowd of mourners in attendance. The burial detail glided with slow deliberate movement, each step in unison. The flag covering the casket was handled with somber reverence as it was slowly folded and unfolded until it was tightly packed in a triangle that was solemnly placed in the hands of my weeping Grandmother. The startling roar of the twenty-one salute made each and every one of us jump even though we knew the next round was coming. I cannot imagine how nerve-rattling combat must have been with rounds going off all around you.
The last of the WWII and Korean War veterans are being laid to rest with their fallen comrades. The next generation to find their fallen friends will be the Viet Nam Vets. This will include my father. Even more heartbreaking is the fact that these Patriots of the 60’s-70’s are being laid to rest side by side with their younger brothers and sisters that have given their service and their lives for American honor in the Middle East since the 1990’s until the present day.
I would like to reach out to everyone reading this article and encourage them not to lose sight of why we celebrate Memorial Day. We spend time with those near and dear to us because many of them have served or we know some Patriot who has served. It could be a father, mother, a son, a daughter or a brother or sister, an aunt or uncle. Or it could be someone with no family to remember that stood tall to preserve our freedom to live in the United States of America. This may have come at the loss of life or limb or the sacrifice of being separated from loved ones. Memorial Day is the day to stop and honor those who have “pitched their tents for the last time”.
My thanks to Theodore O’Hara for the inspiration I received from his poem “THE BIVOUAC OF THE DEAD”. It was written around 1850 after the Mexican War ain is often quoted at military cemeteries including Arlington National Cemetery