Monday, May 30, 2016

A Time of Remembering

Okay, so it has been quite a while since I last wrote a blog and I think today is a good time to try and get back on track.

Today, of course, is Memorial Day in our country and for many people it means a day off of work. For many, it also means a day of celebrating, cooking out on the grill, enjoying games and the beach and the family and so many other things. Outdoor activities have been somewhat altered due to the wet weather and lack of sunshine in our area. However, a day off just the same

Truthfully this is day is much less about the things listed above and so much more contemplative of the reality of the cost of the amazing freedoms the fine folks of the U.S.A. have enjoyed for so many years. Originally it was called "Decoration Day" and involved women from both the North and South decorating the graves of their War Dead in the 1860s just after the Civil War.
It grew from that with each war over the years and has since become a National Holiday. A day to remember the brothers and sisters and moms and dads and sons and daughters and cousins and neighbors and all the thousands of others who gave us  the wonderful gift of freedom and opportunity.

A few years ago, I don't remember exactly when, but I started what has become my own private tradition of honoring this day. I bought some American flags and visited a local cemetery. I began by placing a flag at my father's grave and my father-in-law's grave and then just started hunting for random graves of former members of the armed services. Neither my father nor Dawn's father died while serving our country but they both served and are now deceased. Likewise it may well be that many of the random graves I have chosen over the years have held men and women who served but may not have necessarily  died while serving. Nonetheless, they all served at some point in their lives.

It has been interesting and also meaningful for me to walk through the cemetery and find markers that indicate past service to our country. Once my eye catches a marker that identifies the occupant as a service member I read the dates of their births and deaths and the branch of service if provided. Then I begin to imagine something about the individual. My imagination is quite healthy and I have created many stories in mind that may or may not even come close to reality.

Today, I came across two graves side my side. They were graves of two young men, one was nineteen and the other was twenty one. They both were born in the late 40's and died in the 60's, both having served during the Viet Nam era. I wondered what their stories were and why they were buried side by side. I will likely never know. I thanked them for their service, whispered a prayer for their families if indeed they have any and then gently placed a flag in their honor.

At some point I decided to stray from my pattern of visiting just my father's grave and father-in-law's grave and all random graves beyond those two. I began searching for the graves of a few men who had touched my life along the way who had also served our country at some point. All of which served during WWII as my daddy did. First was my childhood Pastor, Dr. R.W. Kicklighter (buried beside his wife Helen who was also a veteran). Next I found Scott C. Callaway, my high school band teacher who taught me much more about life than just music. Finally I found the grave of Melvin R. Daniels who was buried five years ago yesterday on Memorial Day weekend. Melvin not only served our country but he also served as a N.C. Senator and Mayor of Elizabeth City. He became a dear friend to me and I was honored to serve as a pall bearer at his funeral.

I know my tradition doesn't touch the world but it does indeed touch me and fills my heart with gratitude and pride in these men and women known or unknown by me.

I cannot salute in an official fashion having never served but from my heart I salute and from my eyes I contribute a tear of thanksgiving and humility.

May God have mercy on the United States of America and thank you to all who have served!   


Vernon Brant said...

Way to get back into it James. Nice article.

Kim Boswood said...

Thank you for your remembrances and tradition. It meant a lot to us a few years ago when you visited my brother's grave at Westlawn and left a flag. He served in Vietnam and when he came home, he was never the same although in those days you just didn't talk about "those things". I would be happy to donate to a flag fund so next year you can randomly honor others who may forgotten. Blessings to you and your family.

Janice Boyce said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm sure the loved ones of those you honored appreciate your kind remembrance. The monetary value of a small flag seems insignificant, but when placed with heartfelt gratitude, it is priceless.

Drew Bracken said...

Great in content & spirit Pastor James.

Pastor James said...

Thank each of you for your comments.