I hope you take a moment today to remember what this holiday is for. To me, it is one of the most sacred days of the year, because I have seen what it is about first hand.
Memorial Day is not about automobile races, or cooking hotdogs on the grill, or getting a three day weekend, or the inconvenience of the post office being closed when you want to mail a letter.
It is a day to remember the men and women who have given us the most precious gift of all, our very freedom, and who paid for it with their lives. We forget that too easily in this country. And we need to remember.
We need to remember that all of those headstones decorated with little American flags in all of those cemeteries across this great land of ours represent somebody’s son, somebody’s brother, somebody’s father. Somebody who put on a uniform for you and for me, and never came home.
Men like my uncle Charles Saxton, my mother’s younger brother. I never knew him, because he was killed in action on August 7, 1943 while serving with the 9th Infantry Division in North Africa. My uncle was just 25 years old when he died.
Men like my high school friend Larry Greene. Larry was an absolute goofball who I could always depend on to get me into trouble with some nonsense or other. He died in 1972 when his helicopter was shot out of the sky over Vietnam.
Men like my buddy Brad Pettit, who slogged through miles of rice paddies and jungle trails with me until we got in a firefight one day and a bullet hit him as he was laying beside me returning fire.
Men like a new kid who stepped on a mine on his very first day in the field with us. I held his hand and looked in his eyes and tried to tell him it was going to be okay, because I couldn’t look at what was left of his body below the waist. I hope I gave him some comfort in his last minutes, but I can still see his eyes as they went blank, and I am haunted to this day because I never knew his name. That is what this day is about.
Please remember that right now, as you are reading this with your morning coffee, or during a commercial break in your favorite television show, somebody’s son or daughter, somebody’s brother or sister, somebody’s husband or wife, is in the enemy’s gunsights. Somewhere today or tomorrow or next week, some mother or father or wife will answer a knock on their door and find solemn men in uniform there to deliver the very worst news of all. That is what this day is about.