"There are three deaths: the first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time," a quote from David Eagleman.
We are on the doorstep of Memorial Day weekend, 2020, the beginning of our summer season. This Memorial Day will be like none before. There should be a canoe regatta, a huge car show, parades, and, most importantly, remembrance ceremonies all over the state for our war dead. But everything has been canceled for public health reasons.
Before the mass cancelations, yours truly was scheduled as the guest speaker for the New Berlin Memorial Day ceremony next Monday. In place of my speech in person, I'll give you the printed version of some of my words and thoughts. These words were to be spoken on the hillside lawn of the old school in that village.
The military uses lots of glorified words to define them and attract attention. Words like duty, country, service, commitment, faith, honor, and courage are used to recruit and motivate the young service members. One word never seen on bumper stickers or barracks posters is death, and that is the word that brings all of those other words of bravado into crystal clear focus.
Very few people today enter the military, and those few who do raise their hand and take that oath know by doing so they are signing a blank check. The check is payable to the People of the United States, but the amount of that check is left empty. If that service member happens to go into harm's way, they know the amount could be filled in with the price of their legs, their eyesight, or even their life.
Once in the military, few service members actually go into active combat. Even if not in intense combat, just being deployed to a war zone offers plenty of ways to get hurt or worse. War zones are violent, dangerous places, and death doesn't discriminate. The Grim Reaper doesn't always appear because of enemy action; it can arrive for any number of mundane reasons. Make no mistake; the profession of arms is not for the faint of heart.
Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who have served in campaigns or theaters of action seldom talk about the "what if" or how they would like to be remembered. They don't have to; they know if their demise comes far from home, their comrades in arms will never forget them. They know their hometown will remember them, for at least one day a year. Their family will most certainly remember them, because, for the family left behind, every day is Memorial Day.
A service member who falls in battle doesn't want to be mourned forever. They want their lives to be commemorated and celebrated. They want their grave visited and decorated, and they want their story told. The telling of their story of how their life was cut short is usually left to their brothers-in-arms. Mainly, they want to be remembered as ordinary citizens who did extraordinary service to their country.
There are veterans among us with some experience on this topic. A soldier on patrol or in a defensive posture is supposed to be alert and focused on the mission at hand. Those who have been in combat know it is 99% boredom and 1% terrifying chaos. During the 99% majority of the time, a serviceperson's mind can wander, usually about personal thoughts of home.
During those contemplative moments, they wonder if they will have the courage to move to the sound of the guns. Will they react quickly, appropriately, and decisively? Will they make it back to their family and home? If they do get hit, will it hurt, will they die, and if they do perish, will they be remembered?
The warriors I want to remember today, and in reality, could never forget if I tried, are these Marines; Captain John J. McKenna, IV; Sergeant Brian E. Dunlap; Corporal Joseph S. Tremblay and Lance Corporal Michael D. Glover. They shall always remain young and happy in my old, fading, and gray memory.
This Memorial Day weekend approaching will be void of any community gatherings or reminders, so perhaps we will have to exert a little more effort to reflect on the sacrifice made by young men and women who volunteered to go into harm's way. Trust me when I tell you not to feel guilty if you have a beer, grill burgers and have a picnic during the upcoming long weekend. That is all a part of the American way of life our service people protect. You can enjoy your freedom and everything this country has to offer because of those we remember this Memorial Day.