Tribute to our veterans
The first Memorial Day – then called Decorations Day – was held in 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well.
Today, we have this generation’s fallen to remember and honour. Across America, there will be public ceremonies as we pause to reflect about the “chosen ones”. Last year I came across a piece written in honour of Adam Cann. K9 Handler “V” wrote:
“I know there are a lot of good people that are proud of this country and the military that’s protecting it, but I just want to reflect, that this weekend, be proud and give thanks for the freedoms you have, because others gave their lives to protect it.
On a personal note, I will be remembering my friend and co-worker Sgt Adam L. Cann/USMC, Camp Pendleton K-9 (Dogs of War) who was killed in action by a suicide bomber in Ramadi, Iraq on January 5th, 2006. He was only 23. He was the LAST person you would have thought could die over here b/c he was so full of life and energy. He lived the good life, fought the good fight and gave the ultimate sacrifice. We shall never forget him or others like him….” [ Tanker Brothers, Sgt. Cann ]
Yes, there are public ceremonies this weekend, but to the families of our “chosen ones” Memorial Day also brings a personal reflection, remembering. It is the families I am remembering this weekend. Families of heroes. Billy Walkabout did not die in battles, although he most definitely IS a hero to me and to many. A hero worthy of remembering for not only how he conducted himself in the heat of a war zone, but in how he lived his life in the aftermath.
You may not know of this fine American, but you can read more on him here: [ Tanker Brothers: Billy Walkabout Rest Easy Hero]
Another special young man – a “chosen one” – is the beloved son of a Gold Star Family I am now humbled to call friends. Deb Tainsh wrote a piece last year about her and husband Dave’s meeting with the President at the White House.
I first ‘met’ this family in January 2007. Deb had written a book called Heart of a Hawk (review to follow later) that tells of her family’s journey as their son went to Iraq to make life better for the children there.
Since those dark days of the soul, Deb and Dave have worked tirelessly right across America to ensure that the mission their son gave all for, continues on. I am sure that for them, every Memorial Day is very personal. They are always in my thoughts.
Today, as some of our Gold Star Families join in public memorials, I know for each of them this day is very personal. The Stokely family is another family I have come to know.
I have been blessed to meet Robert Stokely, Mike’s dad, and I know that everything he does (including the Mike Stokely Foundation) is part of what he, Robert, calls “a special privilege of sacrifice”. Not a day goes by that I do not think of Mike’s family, and the work they do across America – and in Iraq – to honour Mike’s legacy.
So many Americans have stepped up and given all in service to their country. So many names that most of us will never know. Throughout America’s history many families have given their loved ones to maintain the freedoms most of us take for granted. Another family I will be thinking of even more than usual as we pause to remember, and give thanks, is the Wiens family. Kory and Cooper were a team in Iraq, a highly specialised team. July 2007 Kory and Cooper both gave all in Iraq.
And the legacy of Kory and Cooper lives on. (Read more on Kory and Cooper here: [ Tanker Brothers: Kory’s Best Friend ] Also watch an amazing video tribute which Moe, a part of the K9 unit that Kory and Cooper worked with, here [ Tanker Brothers: Kory and Cooper Video]
Part of America’s legacy is the public honour given to these precious sons and daughters. I am sure that as they go to public events today, every single one of these families will be rewinding in their hearts the snapshots of the lives they lived together. Many young widows will be replaying the heart-held memories of their husbands as they raise the precious children. Donald May gave all and now his wife Deborah raises their young children; these families’ service to America never ends.
Many names, many families who hold their loved ones close as they wonder if America remembers. Andrew Olmsted, Capt Thomas Casey, Casey Sheehan are but a few of the loved ones we remember. A Vietnam veteran a Marine – who is always in my thoughts, today and every day, is Kenneth Nixon, with whom I formed a special bond.
Kenny’s legacy also lives on in ways he could never have imagined. And I remember. Read more on Kenny here: [ Tanker Brothers: My Eternal Hero ]
In one of the pieces Deb Tainsh sent me, and which I shared elsewhere, she said “Please don’t forget Patrick.” I have promised that I will never forget. On this Memorial Day, will YOU remember?