Proud to be an American: Memorial Day 2011

Published 8:47 am Friday, July 1, 2011

Preparations under way for the Memorial Day ceremony at the cemetery in Columbus. (photo submitted)

Each year I try to write a little something about what I deem the most solemn of our national holidays. This year I thought I’d just describe my day and hope our readers will draw a little something from it.
I awoke at 5 a.m., which is my usual time, for I cherish the quiet early mornings. I greet each day with my usual little prayer, “Lord, may all that I do this day be pleasing to your eyes.”
I leave my home by 5:30 a.m. and head to T.J.’s for breakfast with a group of men who meet there each day. First a stop off at my church for a quick prayer to those friends and loved ones I have lost and those still serving; there will be more to come this day.
I’m at T.J.’s before 6 a.m., hoping to catch Scott Camp, who is the master of ceremonies at the Memorial Cemetery in Columbus. As I pull in, Scott is already leaving. We wave at each other as he heads towards Columbus.
I have breakfast with Chuck Davis, my usual breakfast partner, who is also a member of the honor guard at the memorial service.
The tribute to our fallen servicemen will begin at 11 a.m., but I leave at 7 a.m. and head toward the hallowed grounds. This quiet time of reverence is also something I do each year.
I pull into the parking area and see one truck already there. It’s Scott, doing some finishing touches preparing for the ceremony.
“Are there too many flags, Lennie?”
“Never too many, old friend,” I reply.
Scott nods as I begin making my way around. I stop at some familiar area names, Womack and others, and silently offer my thanks to them.
A killdeer is flopping around, faking a broken wing. I look and spot a clutch of four perfectly camouflaged eggs tucked by the corner of a gravestone. I smile.
“You picked a good spot, girl; they’ll be safe there.”
I move away for her benefit and head back toward Scott.
“Do you need any help?” I ask.
“No thanks, Len, I think we’re about ready.”
He’s right, the place is immaculate, flowers and flags strewn perfectly throughout the cemetery.
“They did a nice job, Scott. It really looks beautiful.”
“Thanks, Len, I hope we have a good turnout.”
“Me too, Scott. I’m especially hoping folks heed my advice from last year and bring more children. We know what this day is all about. This generation has to learn.”
Scott nods agreement and hops in his truck as I decide to hang around awhile longer. It’s a beautiful day and I sit on the steps of the flag-filled memorial as my mind begins to wander.
The price of gasoline is sky high but folks begrudgingly pay it for they must drive to work and shopping. The price of food is continually rising. Folks complain, but they pay, for they must eat.
Gazing at the men and women who lie before me who have made the ultimate sacrifice, I am conscious of the price of freedom that these brave soldiers have already paid. What we have to pay costs us nothing; all we need pay is our respect.
I leave to take care of a few other errands and pray for a good turnout. I return shortly before 11 a.m. and the parking area is jammed. I smile as I park on the far end and make my way back, camera in hand. There are far more children than years past.
“Thank you Lord,” I whisper.
“Is that your son?” I ask one gentleman.
“It’s my grandson,” he replies proudly.
“God bless you,” I say, shaking his hand. The ceremony is solemn and beautiful as folks tearfully pay their respect. I gaze at all the old soldiers before me, many stooped over with age but before their flag they stand erect. There is a look in their eyes and their demeanor that says it all and in my heart I join them.
On this day above all others, “I am proud to be an American.”

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