THE daily fish…
“I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.”
My Dear Friends and Fellow Patriots:
I rarely eat leftovers, I gen’ly do not watch reruns of TV shows, there are very few movies and books that I have enjoyed more than once. That said, it is odd that I would repeat a THE DAILY FISH. Most of the FISH I have written, I suppose, I could improve upon, but this is one of the few that stands out that there is little room for significant improvement. I have not altered it in any way save to change the lapse of time since the last one. I feel the same emotion reading this today as I did when first I wrote it.
As the circulation of this little thing of ours has grown in the past year, I would reckon that there are a fair number of you have not seen this before and I posit that many who have read it before will anew appreciate the sentiment contained within.
That said, respect Memorial Day but remember the reason for it!
My Friends and Fellow Patriots:
Many of you long time readers know that there are a few things that are very special and close to me. You also know that, regardless of what is going on in the world, in our Country, in our backyards, that we have to stop and take pause for a moment and make sure we are shipshape, squared-away, flying right, on top of things, or whatever. In these cases I write a THE DAILY FISH to make sure we do this a few times a year. This is one of them.
On Mother’s Day, I drove out to Calverton National Cemetery here on Long Island. My dad, a WWII and Korea vet was buried there some 30 years ago. Not that long ago, mom joined him and Mother’s Day was her 11th anniversary there.
Like most national cemeteries, Calverton is in great shape, easy to get around, well maintained and if it was not such a bitter-sweet place, you would enjoy going there. Most days, other than the all-too-many funerals, it is quiet and no matter where you are you are almost always alone. Holidays are a bit different and on Mother’s Day I noticed a far higher number of flowers on the graves.
Other than on Father’s Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving Day and very few others do you see much decoration on the graves. Sometimes I think that is the way it ought to be; solemn, serene and reflective. On other days it is good to see flowers and flags festooning the final resting spots of so many of our heroes and in many cases members of their families. Our heroes, though gone, still are part of the American Family and many of them have paid the ultimate price so that we can live as we do. It is right and proper that we recognize and honor them with flowers and flags.
There are national cemeteries all over our country, and in fact, all over the world. I am sure that there is one not too far from you, if you stopped to take a look*. Maybe you know of one, or, like me, have loved ones buried in one or more, but if nothing else, there are fields upon fields of the final resting places of our heroes.
Many of these great Americans left their cities and towns, friends and family and traveled to the far reaches of the Earth so that we could enjoy all with which God has so richly blessed us. Most came back home, took off their Ike Jackets, Cammies, Dixie Cups and so forth and continued their lives until their natural end.
Others came home in bags and boxes, having made the supreme sacrifice in a foreign land. Some others suffered great injuries that accelerated their eventual demise. But no matter what level of sacrifice they gave, they all gave.
There is a bumper sticker that is, I hesitate to say is “popular”, referring to the brave FDNY heroes who perished on 9-11 that reads: “All Gave Some, Some Gave All.” Without fear of compromising the sacrifices made by “New York’s Bravest”, that is a sentiment that ought to be conferred upon all veterans as well.
I am going to eschew politicizing this issue for a moment, as this transcends politics or, at least, ought to. We are all affected and effected by the actions and sacrifices of our vets and we owe them all a debt far greater than we can ever repay. Even we vets owe our brother and sister vets the same, and in many cases a far higher, debt of gratitude.
One of the best and easiest things we can do is to fly our Flag from our houses. Or, on our cars. Or, on your jacket lapel. Or, like me, all of the above. I do not know about you but I get a sense of pride every time I see our Flag and recite the Pledge. And, is there a greater song than the Star Spangled Banner? Brings a tear to my eye. But that comes as natural to me and many others as a result of service to our country.
But there is more that we can do and I really do not want to get all preachy here or holier-than-thou but too many of us take too many of us for granted. If you have an iota of respect for our Flag and that which it represents, please, PLEASE, do something a little different this year if you do not celebrate Memorial Day in any manner other than having a cook-out.
If you are religious, perhaps there is a service at your house of worship you can attend. If there is a parade in your community, as there is one in mine, if you do not participate in it, please, turn out and show your support for those who do. While it is not Veterans Day, maybe you might wish to visit a local Veterans home or hospital. After all, those who we remember on Memorial Day ARE all vets!
One of the things I get the greatest satisfaction doing is the laying of Flags at Long Island National Cemetery, or as we locals call it, Pinelawn. I am not sure of the exact number but there are more than 330,000 vets and family members of vets buried here.
Arriving at first light on the Saturday before Memorial Day, the groups gather at various parts of the cemetery. AMVETS, VFW, American Legion, groups of Nam vets and now the latest groups are those from the Middle East conflicts. There are also Boy and Girl Scouts, Knights of Columbus, Elks, Moose and other fraternal and civic groups pitching in.
They will gather at their appointed location and generally have some kind of small service to set the tone for the solemnity of their duty and for respect and commemoration of those whom they honor. The Flags are provided by the cemetery and are placed in large crates spaced so that you can grab a few bundles, decorate the graves and by the time you need more Flags, there is another huge crate nearby loaded with Flags.
The folks take a few bundles of the Flags and generally work in teams of 3 or so, leap-frogging over the others as they place a Flag at the center of each headstone. Many people take half of a tennis ball for the purposes of pushing the Flag in to the ground. Here in New York even in May, the ground can still be hard. Or rain-soaked. Or something else. But no matter what, it is hallowed ground acting as a sentinel over the remains of thousands upon thousands of American Heroes.
We may have up to a hundred in our group and while I do not know the exact number of Flags that we lay, it is likely over 10,000. That may sound like a lot of Flags but it is only a hundred or so person. And, we get it done in less than an hour. In fact, just before sun up there is scarcely a Flag to be seen and only a few hours later, all 330,000-plus graves have been decorated.
It is truly an amazing sight to see, acres and acres of rows upon rows of white pillars, laid out with great precision, each one with a small American Flag placed at the center of the headstones. If this does not make you proud to be an American, there is something wrong with you. And, it is nearly impossible to look at the fields of fluttering Flags in front of their white sentinels and not think of the American Hero that each one represents.
I am sure that many of you do this already. I am equally certain that many more of you have actually wondered how all the Flags got there in the first place. I hope that some of you will be so impressed with this duty that you, too, may wish to get involved and get a great sense of accomplishment.
It is easy to do.
If you already belong to one of the service, civic or fraternal organizations, check with someone to see if your particular post, chapter, council or whatever is involved and then you can volunteer. If your group does not participate or you do not belong to any of these organizations, I am sure you know someone who does and ask that person if they decorate the graves for Memorial Day. If you strike out on both of these counts, you can contact the administrator at the cemetery near you and I am sure that they can either put you in touch with some organization or that they have a cadre that they field for this event.
So, please take a moment and say a silent prayer for all of those who served so valiantly and are in their final resting place. Take a moment and reflect on the sacrifices that they made. Then ask yourself, will it be just burgers and beers this Memorial Day as usual or will you take a little time out of your day off and will you do a little something for those who served so you can have the freedoms that we all enjoy.
And, while you are saying that little prayer, don’t forget those who are currently serving, especially those in harm’s way.
God Bless, God Speed and Thank you for serving.
* If you are interested in finding a national cemetery, here is a link: www.cem.va.gov/cem/cems_nmc.asp
PRAYER LIST: All those current and past who served our Country and were wounded in any manner, especially those in battle. And an extra prayer for those who have returned and have scars and injuries that no one can see but are just as debilitating.
Requiescat in pace: All those who have served our Country since day one especially those who have perished on the field of battle and particularly who sacrificed their own lives to save the lives of their brothers in arms. And an extra prayer for the 22 Vets who take their own lives every day and with the hope that your prayers might bring that number down tomorrow and the next day.