“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger then oneself.” (Joseph Campbell.)
I used to think of Memorial Day Monday solely as a self-indulgent reminder that my stressful teaching year in inner city schools would soon end with some well deserved freedom in summer. Narrow-minded visions of a sumptuous picnic or a sunny off-day at the beach typically occupied my mind during these times. My indifference to the expected military pageantry of this holiday seemed further driven by the cynicism of student protest that intensified for me during the Vietnam War period in my undergraduate college years.
In retrospect, however, it’s clear to me that I’ve made a poor choice to ignore the true meaning of this important patriotic holiday in my life. For I’ve grown wiser through the years and thus now deeply regret my past failure to give tribute to the countless number of men and women who lost their lives serving our country so honorably and courageously in the past. Understand then why I feel grateful today for possessing the folded American flag from my father’s funeral that now lies front and center in our condo living room. For this flag provides a vivid reminder for me to remember often my father’s great courage in having flown multiple bombing missions over Nazi Germany as an Army Air Force gunner in World War II. Most recently, my yoga classes have also given me a useful forum to manage my “inner pain” of past Memorial Day forgetfulness. For in silencing my ego through meditation, I’ve resolved in the spiritual presence of “Dharma” to pay homage in action to America’s military past on this most cherished day.
So next Monday morning , I will lay a bouquet of flowers on my father’s grave and perhaps say a few much needed words to him then that feels appropriate. In the afternoon I will take some time to engage in a spirited “pep talk” with my mother about my father’s admirable military past. I close this entry with some key historical events in American History that I’ve observed in my travels that might spark interest in your Memorial Day reflections.