Thursday, May 31, 2007
The Memorial Day weekend often catches us thinking of the lake, the swimming pool, grilling, picnics, trips to the beach.
Sometimes we forget the true purpose of the holiday. I was caught up in extracurricular activities myself over the weekend - baseball and such - but then Sunday night I was channel surfing and came across the 2007 National Memorial Day Concert on PBS. It was great.
The multi-award-winning National Memorial Day Concert is the premier memorial service for the United States, honoring the sacrifice that so many American servicemen and women have made for their country throughout our nation’s history. With the war in Iraq now in its fifth year and thousands of U.S. troops still stationed in Afghanistan, the brave military personnel who put their lives on the line to serve our country are of vital concern to many Americans.
The program featured the hallowed burial ground of Arlington National Cemetery, one of our nation’s most important shrines. It contains the remains of more than 260,000 brave men and women who have given their lives for their country. They include presidents and Supreme Court justices, astronauts and noted historical figures, Medal of Honor recipients and Five Star Officers, along with more than 4,700 unidentified soldiers represented by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Arlington is also the resting place for approximately 10 percent of the more than 3,500 soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan and who are eligible and selected to be buried there.
The portion of the 2007 National Memorial Day Concert that caused my eyes to moisten and my mind to totally turn to the meaning of Memorial Day was a segment on a particular soldier killed at age 20 about a year ago in the war in Iraq.
His mom goes to the cemetery once a week, sits by his tombstone and talks to her son via the written word. She writes and writes. It helps her to cope with her tremendous loss. She was even there in the winter months, sitting on the snow-covered ground and bundled in the warmest clothes possible.
Academy-award winning actress Dianne Wiest read some of the mother’s letters during a portion of the Sunday night program. It was heart-wrenching. I’m not sure I had ever been so touched.
When finished, the mom was on the front row in the audience. They shared a hug and tears.
Perhaps the purpose of the National Memorial Day Concert is best expressed by the words distinguished actor Charles Durning spoke during the 2004 program:
Here’s hoping you paused to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day.
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