It’s been a quiet morning at my house. I’ve been listening to the radio, sipping coffee and nibbling from a bowl of strawberries. Already, I’ve cried twice.
The first was while listening to an NPR story about placing the Memorial Day flags on the graves at Arlington Cemetery. The story ended with the playing of taps, followed by Amazing Grace. I had already been thinking about my father, a veteran of the Korean Conflict, and how it had been Memorial Day, 2003, when we buried his ashes in the small churchyard cemetery in rural Wisconsin. We sang Amazing Grace at his funeral, and listened as his name was read for the first time during the Memorial Day church service roll call of local soldiers who had died.
The second time I cried was reading through my local newspaper’s tribute to those soldiers from my state who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan in the past year. A parade of young, fresh faces of the dead, boys with sweet smiles, stories of parents awakened in the night by news of a son’s death, stories of husbands, wives, children and friends left to remember unfulfilled promises, unrealized dreams.
Today, all across this country, our political leaders will participate in remembering the military dead, the wounded, the maimed, the empty spaces that their loved ones will carry for the rest of their lives. Some of them will reflect on their own military service, on the young friends and colleagues who did not return home with them. But increasingly, there are fewer and fewer veterans making the decisions that send our young men and women into harm’s way. These days, the road to political office is paved with money and privilege, good schools and friends in high places. Military service is not an entree to the country club life of today’s powerful decision makers.
For those of us participating in The Mother’s Day Project, the remembering of Memorial Day will continue. Our needles remind us that war is personal. Each name has a story, a mother, a father.
During times of war, one day of remembering is not enough.