There is so much more, let me share with you what Memorial Day means to me.
I grew up after Vietnam, before the Gulf wars, in the end of the cold war with Russia. I remember doing the drills where you hid under your desk and proceed to the bomb shelter because there has been a nuclear attack. During my child hood, there was peace by fear of global nuclear war. I remember President Reagan's famous words "Tear Down This Wall." I remember driving near my grandparents ranch and seeing the military guarding the missile sights, and the fear and comfort those rockets bring. That was the closest thing to war during my young years. The first Gulf war would come as I grew older, then 9/11 just months after my first child was born and there has been war since. I have close friends and family who have lost friends and loved ones as the war has progressed, I have been fortunate, my family and friends who have served have come home. I may not be as qualified to write about Memorial Day as some others, but let me tell you my memories.
I grew up in Rockford Minnesota. My first memory of Memorial Day is a cemetery memorial that my dad was speaking at. I remember the 21 gun salutes, the smell of gunpowder, the flowers the flags, the tears and mourning for the lost local men buried there. At the end of the ceremony, one of my fondest childhood memories, was the procession to the river for the laying of wreaths and flowers. The Crow River would be decorated with hundreds of flowers tossed to the water from the historic old bridge and the new bridges. A small tribute to the fine men and women who gave all serving their countries. The thought of all those flowers floating away down stream still brings a tear.
My next notable memory of Memorial Day was the annual cleaning of the local cemetery in Leadville by the Boy Scouts. We would go through, cleaning trash, brush, branches, straightening headstones and doing our best to have the cemetery ready for the the Memorial Day Celebrations. One thing I learned, there are men from a lot of wars buried in that old cemetery in Leadville. One can learn alot by listening to those old VFW men who were there guiding our cleanups.
Leadville, more specifically Camp Hale, was the home to the very unique and famed 10th Mountain Division. Every year on top of Tennessee Pass, at the gate of Ski Cooper at the10th Mtn Memorial there is a service to honor our fallen soldiers, especially, those of the 10th. The Lake County High School Band has a tradition of playing for that event. We would practice marches, old army songs like Ninty Pounds of Ruck Sack they sang in the 10th, Taps, Reveille, and the Dirge for that presentation. There were years we were rained on, snowed on, lightning, and occasionally sun. You know, the years of snow storms and a frozen trumpet while trying to play Taps to honor the fallen are probably the most moving. To see the appreciation of their friends and loved ones, that we cared enough to be there, soaked to the bone, really not sounding that good, because our instruments and music were soaked through and frozen, is something I will never forget. We would play the Funeral Dirge, for what seemed like an hour, as the procession to the laying of the wreaths in honor of those wonderful men took place. As I type this twenty years later, I can still see the retired and serving soldiers and airmen who come to help with the ceremonies salute the family members, and in their best step, march the wreath to its resting place at the foot of the monument. It truly is moving. It may not seem much to be a member of the band playing for a Memorial, but let me assure you, the time we got to spend with the remaining men of the 10th Mtn Division, hearing their stories, seeing their gratitude for their fallen comrades was unforgettable. The gratitude they shared with us for participating on their day was heartfelt and worth every second of it all!
A couple years ago, I had the privilege of returning to Leadville and going to two services. One at the local cemetery honoring all those who have paid the ultimate price, especially a young local Marine who gave his life serving his country. I was able to go with my my brother GySgt John Baker of the USMC, in his Dress Blues, he is quite a site!(see the picture at the very bottom of this page). It was an honor I will probably never forget to go to two memorial services with him, and see the gratitude shown him by everyone he ran across, and thanked by the Master of Ceremonies at the 10th Mtn Memorial for representing the Marines at their Memorial. I am proud to have had the chance to stand next to one of America's finest who returned home safe, to honor those who never came home.
As I sit here tonight reflecting on the Memorial Days of my past, I think of the one today. I live near an Air Force Base, and there were jets flying over all day today heading to flyovers, reminding me of the real reason of my day off work. I hope that you took some time to remember those who have served our country with pride and honor, especially those who gave all for God and Country. I spoke with my daughters about honoring the men who serve, especially those what give their life for the freedoms we enjoy. I am thankful to my dad for taking us to the memorials he did, and helping to instill in me the appreciation I have for those men and women who have paid the ultimate price for our country. I home and pray that I can relay this same appreciation to my girls as they grow up, so Memorial Day is more to them than just another fun filled holiday weekend.
Lord, thank you for the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our country. I pray that you would give divine comfort to their family members and friends as we honor them today. May I never to forget that the freedom I have was won by the blood of fallen heroes, and that there are many who have lost loved ones for this cause. Help me to love and honor them for their sacrifice not just today, but every chance I get throughout the year. Lord, protect the men and women in our military, keep them save as they fight to protect our freedom, and bring them home safe to their loved ones. Thank you for the country I live in and the rights I have to worship You, In Jesus name, AMEN.