I looked around me and saw the decorated uniforms of those that had served. Their hats each signifying where they had been and what they had survived. Each one there to honor those that had died so we could live. They spoke of the ones that had given their lives, as well as the one’s that had returned and still suffer and struggle to live in a world, where their past still hangs onto them. They come back to start a life again, to create a life that gives to society, as any other citizen. But, here today, to remember the souls that never returned.
In front of the podium, stood a young woman, all dressed in a green camouflage uniform, holding a very large United States Flag. Half way thru the ceremony a large burly man, also dressed in camouflage came up to the podium and relieved her of her duty. She then was offered a chair and she sat just a few steps behind me. I watched her and saw she looked uncomfortable, even hurt by being asked to stand down. I could feel her disappointment. She was holding back her feelings, I could feel that also. I wondered why had she been asked to stand down………..?
I scrolled thru the crowd, viewing the different people who wore hats signifying their place in a war, at one time. Some had lost limbs, some sat in wheelchairs, some wore scars upon their faces, or tattoos upon their arms. Some dressed in white uniforms, some dressed in black with gold trim.
We sang God Bless America chorus several times, and the ceremony ended with a bugle playing the song Taps, after a gun salute was performed to honor all who the lives that had been lost. I could not contain the tears, as I could feel the sadness all around, yet the validation of honor. One of the speakers mentioned that there should have been 3x as many people there that day to remember those that had been lost.
After the ceremony I walked around and viewed the stones that had been placed in the floor of this tribute center, stating the name, war, dates and sometimes memorable words. All that was left of the proud that had served so we could live a life of freedom today. There were beautiful statues, and a large wall of remembrance with a famous quote by Abraham Lincoln.
My last stop was viewing the Welcome board and the items of information that were important to this small place of tribute. I read the poem’s, the hotline for troubled veterans, and other tidbits of information that were interesting to read. But what I read that was most interesting was the story of the coins. All these years I had been alive and all the years I had given to this cause of veteran’s, I had not heard this story. I loved what it had to say and how this beautiful tradition has lived on since the Roman Empire.
“A coin left on a headstone let’s the deceased soldier’s family know that somebody stopped by to pay their respect. Leaving a penny means you visited.
A nickel means that you and the deceased soldier trained at boot camp together.
If you served with the soldier, you leave a dime.
A quarter is very significant because it means that you were there when that soldier was killed.
So what happens to the coins after Memorial Day? It is collected and the money is used for cemetery maintenance, the cost of burial for soldiers, or the care for indigent soldiers.
Supposedly the tradition became popular here in the United States during the Vietnam war. It is believed it was a way to show respect without getting into an uncomfortable political discussion about a war that was very controversial.
In general, however, this tradition can be traced to as far back as the Roman Empire. It was a way to give a buddy some spending money for the hereafter.”
“Remember those who have fallen in the trenches of hell.
Those who have watched their brothers of war die by their side.
Seen the unforgiven and been asked to protect their country by doing what few will ever understand.
Remember those who died so we could live in freedom.
They have paid a price beyond what we could ever fathom.
They sacrificed the mightiest of all sacrifices.
Their families live on, but will always remember their loves ones who never returned.
Not to forget those that returned with a part of themselves left on the fields of war, where the unimaginable remains within.
Soldiers of war, of all wars, we give our blessed thanks for all you have endured. All the sacrifices you have made. We thank you with our sincere gratitude that you were a soldier that fought and killed so we could live.
Whether from land, sea, air, jungle or dessert, we honor your service on this Memorial Day.”
And most of all let’s not forget those that served who are often not remembered. The women, the She-ro’s, and other’s who were soldiers of war, those that gallantly and fearlessly gave by saving many.
Last but not least, the many animals that were a part of the war and who also died on the battlefields so we could live on, in a world of freedom. They too gave their hearts and they too were soldiers of war.
Snyopsis of an HBO Documentary: “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1”
Since 2001, more veterans have died by their own hand than in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, one veteran dies by suicide in America every 80 minutes. While only 1% of Americans has served in the military, former service members account for 20% of all suicides in the U.S.
Read more at this link: http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/crisis-hotline-veterans-press-1/synopsis.html
A Memorial Day Service at a Veteran’s Memorial Center I attended.
Always a special place in my heart for Veterans. One of the first causes I contributed to as a young woman. Today I still have as my number one cause. Each year my visor is lined with poppies, that are handed out as a thank you for contributing to the local veterans.
By Diana Wanamaker
Copyright May 25, 2015. All Rights Reserved