Memorial Day was always just a day off of work or school for me. My family did not celebrate the day with any type of picnic or party. It was just a holiday that I took for granted. I have always been interested in U.S. History and I have always enjoyed studying books about war and battles (“more pursue than a study”) but I never knew anyone that had died in a war and the significance of Memorial Day was lost on me.
Somewhere in my late teens or early twenties that changed.
I was reading the book “The Only War We Had” by Michael Lanning. The book is one man’s journal of being on the front lines in Vietnam. In one of the entries, he explains the death of one of his comrades LT. William F. Little III. I don’t know why, maybe it was the fact that he was named William, but something about LT. Little grabbed me. I knew nothing about him except for what was written in that book. Not long after reading that book I went to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. and I looked up his name and I made an etching. I have been to D.C. maybe 6 times since then, and every time I look up his name on the Wall.
Every Memorial Day, from the time I “found” William Little, I always say a little prayer for his family. I found some significance for the day off of work.
In November of 2005 Capt. Jeff Toczylowski died on a combat mission in Iraq. Jeff was a very close friend of my bother Jim. My mom used to baby-sit Jeff every day after school for many years. I knew Jeff. He was quite the character. Jeff’s death and story made national headlines.
Memorial Day now has more significance to me.
No matter your political affiliation or your stance on war I think it is important to remember those people like William F Little III and Jeff Toczylowski and not take Memorial Day, the holiday, for granted.
Lauren and I have discussed starting a tradition for the kids to make Memorial Day a true day of remembrance of fallen soldiers. I believe they are still too young to teach them about war and loss. But I do not think it is ever too early to teach them to appreciate the freedoms and blessings that we have living in the U.S.
Do you have a Memorial Day tradition? What do you do?