Memorial Day "What's it for?"

  • Published
  • By Gerald Scott Flint
  • 932nd AES
It seems that you could ask just about anyone what Memorial day is all about and they would all have some of the same answers. i.e.: camping, the start of summer, time with the family , The Indy 500, baseball games , parades , picnics and so on. 

Few of those ask would probably say anything at all about paying respect to our fallen men and women or the events that led up to having such a day set aside to honor them.

My father , a highly decorated Marine Aviator from the Korean War era made certain that my brothers and I knew very early on that a high price was paid by many on battlefields far away so that all which we hold near and dear here in the USA could take place in peace , comfort and safety. 

From the time I was able to remember we were taught to respect and honor those who lost their lives in the struggles that have faced this nation since the idea of freedom was born here hundreds of years ago.

The hundreds of thousands of white crosses and star of David that fill military cemeteries around the world are the main reason that we have Memorial Day , a day to remember that our freedom and security was not , is not and never will be free. 

Someone will have to stand armed watch at our gates here and abroad to ward off those will be against us in our quest for decency, respect, liberty and democracy. The foes have been many but we have stood tall and those who lay beneath those white markers warrant and deserve our respect and gratitude.

It was Memorial day morning 2004 in Belleville , IL just outside Scott AFB. I was preparing to march and carry the colors with the 932nd Airlift Wing as we often do as a service to our local community. We were only an hour away from the start of the Belleville parade and our march of a very large version of "Old Glory" through the streets of this city so rich with Military History. 

The winds were picking up and we would need every member to keep "the stars and stripes" from becoming airborne during the parade. Phone calls were coming that some members could not make it and then my own cell phone would ring with a nurse on the other end and the news of my father's sudden passing in the very early morning hours of that Memorial Day 2004. 

I remember feeling shock, fear , pain and anger all at once with a deep stabbing pain in the middle of my chest. I was only 2 days away from a deployment and I had just left my father at home 48 hours before. 

The Marine's Marine gave me one final order as I walked out the door to begin my drive to Scott AFB. "Go do your duty son and bring some back alive" he belted. "Yes, Sir I proudly bellowed back and saluted him the manner in which only Marines are trained. It is a sharp , snappy , crackling salute that could get the attention of almost anyone in the immediate area. 

How could this strong , strapping Marine be gone from me now and how could such a day be chosen for his exodus. I had just spoken with him and he appeared well and thriving.

The last emotion that passed before me was comfort, comfort in knowing that my father was in a better place , comfort in knowing that he had trained me well to face an all too often cruel world and that it I could face that day and his departure from the surly bonds of earth as well.  

I reported to Capt. Paregien that my father had passed and he assumed that I would need to leave immediately for home and deal with pre funeral arrangements. He appeared very surprised that I decided to stay and march with the wing. 

It was the best way that I could think of to honor my father and all of those who we should honor on Memorial Day so I sucked it up took my position along side the greatest symbol of freedom the world has ever known.

The cheers from the crowd as we passed had new and deep meaning that very windy day in Illinois.  Kids waved, men saluted and others stood with their hands over their hearts as the giant field of stars and stripes would pass each block of parade route. Yes, this was day for the fallen in war, the protectors of freedom. 

Memorial Day is the day they would be honored and remembered for making the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and what they held fast in their hearts. Memorial day is about and for the memory of those who put self totally out of the picture; they committed themselves to insuring the peace, liberty, security and freedom in almost every corner of this great ball that we live on. 

Along with the parades, games, cookouts and all the other fun that Memorial Day kicks off , please take time to reflect on the primary reason that you won't have to work on Monday. 

It's a Holiday, a very important holiday purchased with the blood of so many
that are remembered by so few.   That's what Memorial Day is.

Gerald Scott Flint , 932ND AES