A moment to remember

25 05 2009

At 3 p.m. today, the Obama Administration is asking all Americans to stop what we’re doing–to step away from grill, put down the cocktail, quit chatting on the beach–and pause, just for a moment, to remember those who died in service to our country.

I cannot imagine any excuse that would keep any one from doing just that.

I know I will.

By way of background, I grew up around the military, specifically the Air Force.  My grandfather was a career military man whose final job was chief of security for SAC–which was in charge of America’s nuclear arsenal. I long ago got past the fact that he and I probably would have disagreed vehemently with many of the routes his “service” took.  To me, days like today are about honoring the intent behind military service–an intent to protect and preserve a democracy–not specific actions that may, in and of themselves, actually run contrary to that intent.

Of course, Veterans Day is when we honor folks like my grandfather.  Memorial Day is about remembrance.  Remembering those  who sacrificed their lives in service to the idea of democracy.

It’s a day when I remember Maj. Gregg Hartness,  a POW who disappeared in Laos on November 26, 1968.

I’ve been connected to him on and off for about 35 years.  First, his name was the name on the copper POW bracelet my mother wore.  Then, many years later, I learned that that same Maj. Hartness was the father of my dear friend–and roommate–in Austin, TX.  My roommate had no recollection of his father, aside from the grainy photo he kept on the nightstand in his room.  A photo honoring the bond between father and son that even life can’t shatter.  A photo remembering sacrifice.

So, today, I remember Maj. Hartness.

Now, maybe you don’t know anyone who died in active duty.  If that’s the case, then take a moment to check out  The Washington Post‘s Faces of the Fallen which remembers the 4,962 women and men who have sacrificed their lives–thus far–in the Iraqi and Afghanistan Wars.

Pick just one person listed there.  Then, put aside whatever you think of the current wars or, if you’re a pacifist like me, even war in general.

Remember that person not as a number, but as a husband or wife; a mother or a father; a son or daughter, brother or sister.  And, just for a moment, honor their life.  Honor the person…your fellow American.  In the Shamanic tradition, say their name out loud…releasing the remembrance, the gratitude, the common human bond into the wind.

At a time when both parties relish tearing us apart more than bringing us together, isn’t 3 p.m. today one moment we can all agree to come together…and honor not only the fallen, but also the values to which our country ought to aspire?

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