I can remember as a child being so excited about Memorial Day. That meant for me that swimming pools were opening, fireflies were coming, and I was about to punch my first pass for Opryland Theme Park-a much loved tradition for many native Nashville kids of the early 1970s.
It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I understood the true meaning of this great day. I have vague memories of Vietnam as a very young child. I recall Walter Cronkite, who looked very kind, showing news reels of men dressed in uniform and marching along fields. I didn’t really see or understand the marches when they returned home. I’m sure my parents shielded me a bit from too much of that news as I was so young.
Of course I have heard the stories of my father at age 15 running away to join forces in WWII, only to have to return. Then he officially joined and proudly fought in the Navy after he was “of age.” To this day, he and his fellow sailors get together on terrific memorial trips along with those who sailed on the USS Oklahoma City.
Many of my classmates went on to join the forces, but my teenage years were considered to be peaceful; all but the Cold War, which began its end at the great fall of the Berlin Wall. However, war hit close to home at an age I remember well. As a young family, Andy and I lived in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, a town very close to Fort Campbell. Our next door neighbor was a Colonel in the Army during the first Iraq war. I marveled as I watched his wife, and her commitment not only to her family, but to the families of each of the soldiers under his command. She took on a huge role the day the soldiers left for war. It was humbling to watch such dedication and determination on her part; all along not knowing if her loved one would return. It was my first personal touch with our amazing military. At the same time, one of my closest high school buddies was commanding Navy Forces. My thoughts were with him often. The television constantly showed the war. Our nation could not stop watching with great concern.
It was the beginning of a long journey with war for my generation. Most of our parents are of The Greatest Generation—those who faced the Great Depression as well as the Second World War. They taught us well how to honor and respect these freedoms we have. Now, I’m watching as my own children have friends who are in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. Many are with the National Guard and Coast Guard. This generation knows war at a whole different level than any of us forty and fifty something’s would have thought our children would have to know.
From all of us at Puckett’s, we thank those who followed Christ’s lead as quoted in the Book of John: “There is no greater love than this; that he lay down his life for his friends.”
Thank you to the men and women in our armed forces, and to their families. They offer us the gift of freedom at their life’s expense. It is a graceful and lovely gift indeed.