A tribute to the fallen, running a little late

Published 8:46 am Friday, May 31, 2013

To the editor:

Each year on Memorial Day I get to Memorial Park early in the morning before the festivities begin. It’s usually a short visit, maybe 10 or 15 minutes where I’ll walk around and quietly whisper prayers of gratitude.

This year on the Sunday before, I held the annual gala for Lennie’s Kids and as a result I was up a little late. I got a late start in the morning and had to tie up a few loose ends from the night before, thus because of running a little late I missed my annual visit.

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I have a cousin who is a Vietnam vet and he hates this holiday because it brings back memories he’d rather forget. He shuts himself in for this weekend and avoids everyone and everything. He called and said, “I have something for your kids, please pick it up after the holiday.”

I made my way to Ingles and picked up a rotisserie chicken and some fresh donuts, both his favorites. I had some great treats for his dog Biff and Max, his doggie houseguest.  Ignoring his request, I went over to visit, he would not be alone this Memorial Day.

It was a great visit in which we spoke mostly about my kids, some he’d helped in the past. After a while I looked at my watch, “Darn it Ted I have to get to the memorial, I’m running a little late.”

He laughed, handed me a check and just said, “Thanks.”

Heads nodded in recognition as I took my place in the crowd. I know and admire all the Honor Guard along with many other onlookers. As always the tribute is moving and beautiful with a deep reverence offered to our fallen.

Afterwards I greeted many old friends as I headed back to my car. I left to handle a few more errands in town and returned an hour later to a quiet and empty Memorial Park. I walked silently past all the markers and began to pray, “I’m sorry I’m a little late this year Lord, I’ll try not to let it happen again. I know You’ve embraced all our brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives for love of country. Sad to say, more will come for freedom is not free. Be prepared Lord for all too often, many will be getting to You just a little bit early.”

– Leonard Rizzo, Columbus