It’s a Sunday afternoon. I am relaxing in a local coffee shop ruminating on the past few days’ events. Let me give you a little background before I continue. I live in Reno, NV. I’m a 14 year veteran of the military. I’m active in most of the local groups in form or fashion. It means I have exposure to a lot of lessons learned and lost of the years. Not surprising Reno has a large veteran population since it’s the second largest population center in Nevada. Yup, Las Vegas is the other, but that’s just fun information. We have a lot of funerals and memorial services every month. I don’t attend most due to school, timing, meetings etc. The ones I do get to have got me thinking. I’m sure somewhere in a previous blog I’ve walked this point before but it’s been a while and I feel the urge to readdress it.
On any given Sunday, not the movie with Jamie Foxx, most of us get up in the morning, shower, shave, get ready and attend a church service. We thank God or your favorite deity for good fortune and you pray for little things like the promotion, your kid hurrying up and being potty trained, or the neighbor’s dog to stop tearing up your garden. You say your amens, Hail Mary, or what ever your choice is. You might stick around after the service for a social hour if they have one. You laugh, fuss at the kids, remind your husband to mow the lawn before football or just sit and listen to the local gossip.
We all live in the present. We thank God or Jesus Christ for their past sacrifices. But do we look back and see what is really behind us? Do we sit down on Sunday, or whatever holy day you have and talk with family about our heritage and ancestors? Do we go through what has brought the family happiness in the past? It may be a marriage, a birth, or even a divorce. Do we talk with our partners through our relationship and identify areas of improvement and see what has and has not worked? Do we sit down with our children and educate them on the history of the local community, it’s lore and legend? Do we take the time to study our city, county or state history and see how our jobs make the big wheels of economy go around? Do we sit down with Grandpa Joe or Grandma Flo and hear about how the grew up and made it through the second World War?
Well you may think, that’s what school is for. Or how about you think time with the grandparents is saved for the family reunion? Why would those things be important? Why would anyone write or blog about them? For the simple reason and viewpoint of this author. We as Americans are losing what it means to be a citizen. We are losing what community really is. We don’t want history lessons, we want the new fashion now before anyone else has it. We want to grab the gossip from the latest dingbat celebrity off their horrible television show. We’ve become so distracted we have no idea what our kids are doing on a daily basis. We have forsaken our future by forgetting our past.
On a whole I feel this is true. Individuals vary and if the shoe fits wear it. But be aware of those around you. I attended the funeral of a World War II veteran last Thursday. Myself and 3 others from one of my veteran’s groups showed up. We didn’t know the veteran personally. We thought it was important though to let the family know that his sacrifices were not forgotten. There are those who remember, who honor and who strive for a better future. We aren’t any better than anyone else. We are just more conscious of what is being lost than others. It came as no surprise to me when the deceased’s grandson, near my age in his mid 30s, came up and thanked us for being there. A little while later during the service for his grandfather, he began to tell the stories of his grandfather’s service. He told of a man who was a hero, a Marine fighter pilot in the Pacific. He shared with those present how in the last few months of his grandfather’s life he was just beginning to hear the stories of life lived long ago. He said there were things his grandfather said which only made sense after he learned about his military service. The young man was proud, humbled and grateful to have such a strong person to point to in his lineage. He said because of his grandfather he found a new meaning in the word “family”. He concluded with “I found out more about life in the last three months with my grandfather, than any education I’ve ever had up till now.” I smiled, my comrades smiled and we nodded. We knew what he was saying, what the message was.
Today, again, the same message was similar. I was the stand in Chaplain for a friend of mine wife’s memorial service. As the people gathered in and took their seats, I could see generations gathered. They were united by one person. There was no harshness or unfriendliness. All came to honor one of their fallen. As the service started and I began to read the biography of my friend’s wife, I glanced up and looked at my friend. He was smiling. His eyes were wet but he was smiling. Hearing the story of him and his deceased wife’s life together coming from someone else gave him time to reflect on all the good, the bad, the ugly and lessons and experiences gained along the way. You could feel a collective resonance from those gathered thinking about their fallen loved one. They were happy, though sad she had passed. They listened to the words of her life, the stories form others and they smiled. These were people who did not take anything for granted. They lived, loved and passed on what they could to those around them and their children. These were people like myself, my comrades who new to always remember and most importantly to always pass those experiences and lessons on.
The point is too often we have a service, kick some dirt and move on with our life. We might have an annual memorial for our lost but we eventually forget. Maybe not completely but the deceased move further from our conscious thought. This is normal this how we cope. We saw we honor, we remember, we celebrate those who have sacrificed for us. But do we really? Do we take what they have taught us and pass it on? Do we apply it on our life? If we do and don’t pass the lessons on are we really honoring them? I think not. But that’s just me. Enjoy your day.