A few years ago, my husband and I answered a call for volunteers for our local historical society. I am not embarrassed to admit that I was a bit apprehensive.
Our volunteer mission: to place flags on veteran’s grave sites.
My apprehension wasn’t due to the perceived creepiness of going to a cemetery, but how would I handle this emotionally. As a military wife and mom, I’d be placing flags at the graves of someone else’s spouse or child.
Previously, my only experiences at cemeteries had been emotionally charged because of the burials of relatives or friends. Would emotions run high for this event, too?
Volunteers gather in the center of the cemetery to receive flags and instructions, then disperse. Amongst those donating their time were several members of scouting groups and some veterans – a good mix of young and old.
Walking amongst the headstones is very humbling. There is an innate respect for the ground you are walking on, carefully tip-toeing to make sure you don’t “step” on someone. After a quick search of a seemingly endless row of headstones, you spot one. A veteran’s grave marker. It is unmistakable. Place a flag to the left hand corner of the marker and you’re done.
Or so you think, “done.”
In my case, I would stand a moment and picture what the service member may have looked like, in a uniform fitting the years noted on the marker. Looking at the dates, you know if this person was young or old when they died; if they had come home from war and continued on with their lives. Or, sadly, if the service member had fallen for their country. Super heroes who answered the call to serve.
I’d say a sincere thank you to each veteran, using his or her name, plus give a prayer of thanks to God that this person put their life on the line for me, my family, my friends, for future generations, and off to find the next marker. Yes, there was a certain soberness to the occasion but there was certainly cause to smile, hearing the distant shouts of an excited Cub Scout yelling “I found one!” then watching as he firmly planted a flag and a gave a quick salute.
Did my emotions run high? Yes, without a doubt.
And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me. ~Lee Greenwood
How will you celebrate Memorial Day?
© 2012 – Lynne Cobb