Memorial Day Essay

(May 2016)

When I was thinking about what to write to celebrate, and commemorate Memorial Day, I was at an impasse, my drafts lacked emotion and the subtle mix of pride, grief and remembrance that Memorial Day brings.

I knew I wanted to say thank you to all the soldiers who fought for our country. I wanted to talk about my great grandfather, Herman Lewis, a pilot in World War II in the Army Air Force, who was injured with shrapnel and awarded a Purple Heart. I wanted to talk about my other great grandfather, Harry Goldberg, who served in the Marines, in the 1930s, in the Pacific, Pearl Harbor and a ship to Nicaragua. I wanted to talk about my cousin, Eric Lapin, in special forces, who was in Afghanistan and is soon being deployed to Iraq with Judge Advocate General's Corps.

I wanted to remember great war heros like Alvin York, who was “World War I’s greatest civilian soldier” and awarded the Medal of Honor or Edouard Izac, a navy officer, who was captured, but then gathered knowledge on the submarine operations, and who lead a daring escape to tell people the information he had learned, or Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, one of the greatest generals of the American Civil War, who only lost one battle in his career to misinformation.

I wanted to talk about the families who miss our soldiers greatly. I wanted to talk about the special U.S. flag draped over Grandpa Harry’s coffin that my cousin still has. I wanted to talk about Grandpa Herman’s purple heart that my uncle keeps safe. I wanted to talk about the moment of remembrance, established by Congress as a moment of national unity at 3 pm to remember our veterans. I wanted to speak of Declaration Day, a precursor of Memorial Day, which the Great Army of the Republic established to decorate soldier’s graves. I wanted to speak of what these soldiers laid their lives down protecting: our beautiful, free America.

I wanted to speak of how much their struggles and sacrifices are appreciated and acknowledged by every American today. I wanted to tell the soldiers that we are all waving American flags and supporting and missing them. I wanted to tell them that these parades are in their honor. I wanted to tell them that I’m sorry, but grateful that I can’t truly empathize with them, because I haven’t gone through what they have, that I only know war through books and the media. I wanted to write them a letter, with the words serving as buckets for the love and spirit of America.

Today, I stand in awe of all the people that have kept the United States safe, wondering how I could ever say enough to thank them for what they have done for us.

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