24 May 2008

Memorial Day Duty

This morning I am headed down to Greenlawn Cemetery here in Columbus to join a number of other people for a very important duty -- flagging the graves of military veterans buried in this picturesque ground.

I have been involved in this duty -- an even better word might be "obligation" -- for several years now, at the invitation of Dave Stockham, who is a past commander of American Legion Ohio Post #1 (Southway Post). Greenlawn is huge. I don't know the count of how many veterans are in this cemetery, but myself, a group of Peoples Rights Organization (PRO) members , Boy Scouts from Simon Kenton Council region Troop 123, and a handful of aging volunteers from Legion Post #1 will push some 4,500 flags into the ground this morning alongside the grave markers of known military veterans.

We will cover only a small portion of this sprawling cemetery. Other groups will hit other areas. Where my dad is buried, in north Columbus in Union Cemetery, Boy Scout Troops and VFW organizations take on the responsibility. Sadly, however, there will be graves all across this nation that will be missed . . . that won't be marked.

So why head out on a cold morning and come home with sore hands each year? This is a way I can pay respect to those who have gone before me in the fight for freedom, and remember the cost of living in a free nation.

Increasingly, the politics out of Washington and around the nation is disturbing, and sometimes I wonder how much longer our children, and children's children will have that freedom. Some of the bills being proposed in the Congress make you shake your head. Lawmakers who have long wanted to socialize our medical field now talk this week are talking about nationalizing our oil companies -- all because these elected representatives don't understand Economics 101, world supply and demand for oil. Watching the leading presidential candidates all argue over who is the better supporter of the Second Amendment would be exciting if I didn't already know that all three are gun control supporters, with two of them backing some of the most draconian bills ever to impact the future of firearms rights and the basic human right of self defense.

It can be depressing at times. But honoring our veterans, and their sacrifice, brings me back.

Reading some of these grave markets is educational, also. Most veterans graves are marked with simple notations of their service time, or where they were from. One monument we discovered a few years ago remembers a veteran of the Civil War, and some three horrendous battles this gentleman survived. Then you read a notation that he was a Buffalo Soldier. A black man who fought for his freedom when many told him it didn't exist because of his skin color, he later moved west and rode the U.S. Plains regions as an Indian fighter. Which creates a new conundrum, as we look at history from today's vantage point.

I have flagged graves of veterans who fought in the Civil War, Spanish-American War, WW1, WW2, Korean Conflict, and Viet Nam War. It is possible there will be graves of the fallen from our more recent conflicts. It is only fitting that we salute them in this manner before Monday's Memorial Day. I wish we could do more.

As I write these words it is 42 degrees on a day in late May. It will be cold these first few hours. But I won't complain. Most of these men and women suffered far more when they were in uniform than I ever have.

Monday is a day of remembrance. It can also be a day of joy, to enjoy our freedoms. For me, Monday afternoon will also be a day of sadness. That afternoon I will attend afternoon calling hours and pay respects to a young man I met only once a few years ago. The son of a friend from deer camp, this young man passed away last week. He had served in Iraq.

Please remember to thank a veteran for their sacrifice. And thank our present day military for what they do each day for all of us. And if you get a chance this weekend, plant a flag on a veteran's grave.

It's the least we can do.

No comments: