I wanted this Memorial Day to be more than just sunny weather, no work, and picnics at the beach. I wanted to recognize those men and women who are not here to celebrate. I wanted to recognize those men and women we were celebrating. And as this will hopefully be our last childless Memorial Day, I wanted to start a family tradition that could last for years.
The nearest VA cemetery is located over an hour away from where we live and since we had some other things we wanted to do later in the day, we decided that we should stick close to home. Instead, we took the bus to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Chicago and spent some time there.
I was surprised that in the middle of a big, bustling, noisy city, the area surrounding the memorial still had a feeling of reverence to it. I almost didn’t want to leave and re-enter the noise.
I thought that we would be the only ones there. I was really impressed to find out that I was wrong. While we were there, quite a few people stopped by to pay their respects. An old man dressed in a blue button-down shirt and khaki shorts donning a fisherman’s hat and dog tags stood behind the fountain facing the wall respectfully saluting. I couldn’t help but stand and watch. I imagined that he was a Vietnam vet himself and that chances were, some of the names on the walls were the names of his buddies. The thought brought tears to my eyes.
I’m excited to continue this tradition next year. I’m excited to teach our children the true meaning of Memorial Day. I hope that for them, Memorial Day will be more than just a day with no school, fun in the sun, and barbecues.