Having not grown up in an American culture, for the longest time the true meaning of Memorial Day was unknown to me. Even after I stood and took my oath to protect this country from all enemies foreign and domestic, I didn't get it. I understood the bit about a day set aside to honor fallen soldiers. But they were just names. Names from wars over and done with. No less deserving the respect and the thanks, but they were so far removed from now that it was difficult to fully grasp the ramifications of their ultimate sacrifice.
My brain is very much wired to the here and now. While I appreciate history, I live in the present and rarely think of the future. It's an African thing. It's also a big part of why I don't touch the check book.
Shortly after September 11th, 2001 it got personal. Suddenly names were popping up of people I knew. People I served with. People my husband had served with. People I had walked beside, talked with, knew. And I got it.
The old men in their VFW uniforms walking in parades--the wars aren't over and done with for them. The names aren't just names. They are names of men and women they had walked beside. Served beside. Fought beside. The men and women walking the Vietnam Memorial in their faded fatigues...that war isn't over and done with. The names engraved in that cold marble are names of soldiers, sailors and Marines they walked beside. Served with and fought with.
Today is Memorial Day. Those of us that came home honor the memory of those that were left behind. Today. Tomorrow. And every day.