There are so many things I need to be doing today. RomFest is rapidly approaching. Edits to be done, prints to be proofed, items ordered… so many things.
Yet, a midst all of the things swirling in my brain, the countless lists and details to be organized, my heart replays a conversation between my brother, mother, and myself just the other night wherein he said “It’s Memorial Day. I just don’t feel like it would be appropriate to be hosting a D&D game on that day.”
When I think of Memorial Day, I think of my grandfathers. Both were amazing men – One I had for such a brief time but whom I adored and have the most wonderful flittering memories of. The other, in my life long enough to teach me to say “Semper Fi” and the words to the Marine Corps song. Things like “No Marine Left Behind.” I think of my great uncle who I never got to meet. My mind wanders over the many generations in our family who served – some came home to their families, others did not.
I think of my trip to DC in 2002. Those who know me know that I’m a political historical junkie. I love American history. I love politics. I love all of those things. But it wasn’t the Washington Monument or the National Mall, or even the Lincoln Memorial that got me. It was the tour into Arlington Cemetery. Never have I been somewhere that drew me down in front of an anonymous marker and wrung out tears of such anguish or questions from deep within my soul about who that person was – who had loved them – or even, simply, had they come home from serving their country at all? The stop at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was cause for so many more tears. I spent most of my “tourist” day in Arlington Cemetery, paying respects and saying ‘thank you’ to as many of the soldiers as possible – none of whom I had any connection to at all, except that they served my country with honor and pride and deserved nothing less from me.
Then my mind flashed forward to this past year and the first time I saw this photo:
If you haven’t been introduced, please meet Mrs. 2nd Lt. James Cathey and read her story. I challenge any of you to go to that site and read her story and not to breakdown right along with her as you watch her cling to the Marines who carried her pregnant body through those awful days as she clung to them like a lifeline. The Marine who stayed the night, there with her and her husband, ever faithful – watching them both. I will never, ever know how he managed to do so, but I will forever be grateful that he did. I can only imagine that his presence brought her some grain of comfort in an time of inexplicable heartache. I can’t make it through this post without shedding my own tears – and there he stood – ever faithful – ever a Marine. To him I say, you exemplify “Semper Fi.”
I’m sure Mrs. Cathey never dreamed her final moments with her family – her as-yet unborn son, who would be name James Cathey Jr; and her husband, 2nd Lt. James Cathey – would become the iconic image of today’s military families, but it has, just as surely as any image of a soldier standing in Arlington or kneeling in front of the helmet, rifle, and boots of a fallen friend. The documentation of the most intimate moments of sheer heartbreaking, world-shattering, grief and loss of Mrs. Cathey has indeed become as founded in me as is “The Kiss” in NYC after WWII – but in an entirely different way.
Memorial Day – A time to remember those who have given all for us – and to never forget the ones at home who have lost all for us. The ones who, like Mrs. Cathey, would love nothing more than to crawl right into the grave with their loved ones – but who do, in fact, take each step, each day, one foot in front of the other. Heroes, every one.
So, yes, my baby brother had it absolutely right – On Memorial Day, a day that has come to be “the first day of tourist season” or “the first day down the shore,” perhaps we need to pick a different day to mark those things. Let us leave Memorial Day for quiet moments of thought, reflection, remembrance, and respect – for all who serve, in and out of any uniform, on any given day. Because, in truth, as the song says (and I paraphrase here) – They all give some; and some give all.