How was your Memorial Day? It is always a somber time for me. I always spend some time each day of the past week thinking about the men who are longer with us. When I think of that, I remember that it wasn’t just the men. This week is also about the women who heard the call to duty and failed to return. I won’t lie. I am tearing up as I write this.
That seems to happen to me perhaps more than it should, but when you have attended schools and training with these men and women of the Armed Forces you become more than just school mates. They truly become like brothers and sisters. I sit at my computer and cannot help but to remember the ones that didn’t come home. I never met their mothers or fathers but I think of them during this week as well.
I often think that Special Forces or Recon or any of the elite units would have been the hardest job in the Armed Forces. I cannot imagine the sorrow that a Notification Officer and his or her detail have when notification is made. Although I never had to make a notification I did have to study the time and method because this is the most hallowed duty that the Armed Forces could perform.
Can you even imagine driving up to a house in a well-marked military vehicle with the Notification Officer, who always wears a full dress uniform and has a rank equal or superior to the deceased, steps out of the car? The mother, father or even a brother or sister would often see the car and know what was coming. I cannot imagine the pain that must be felt. It must be the greatest sorrow.
My mother and father had three boys that went into the military. Two U.S. Marines and me. My oldest brother was a career Marine and was an interpreter and interrogator during the Vietnam fiasco. He was assigned to the Marine Base in Da-Nang, Vietnam. He never carried a rifle into combat, but no one told him he didn’t go to war. His encampment was shelled almost every night. He was my oldest brother and was so proud of me because I had become an officer.
Although both my brothers did not have to go off to war due to their age, they often told me they would have traded places with me. I suppose most brothers would have said the same thing, I loved them for that.
I have carried a fallen soldier to a helicopter. I have written a letter to the parents of this soldier. I remember writing that letter, and writing a thousand or so words once a week is a lot easier. I remember others that have fallen. Men that I attended schools with and those that I shared a beer with. I’m sure they wouldn’t care whether you say, “Happy Memorial Day” or “Merry Christmas” or even “Happy New Year.”
I know my family will often correct someone and remind them it is not a celebration of those that have gone before us. It is a reminder of the thousands that have left their families and other loved ones that gave their all for our country. It’s not supposed to be a happy day, and I never think of it that way. That’s why I will correct anyone who forgets these facts. No one has ever talked back to me. If they think about it at all, they will say something like, “I’m sorry” and “I didn’t know.”
In Gonzales, we have the American Legion, and I can’t think of any member that won’t correct someone who forgets. There are activities all over our valley, and even over on the Peninsula they have a parade and patriotic activities. I want you to remember one thing. I didn’t write this to sound stern to folks that never went to war. I am nothing but happy that anyone remembers. You see the worst thing that could happen is if you or anyone reading this forgets the sacrifice made in the name of freedom.
So now I would like to take a moment to say thank you:
- Thank you to Paul Guzman, our commander, for his leadership;
- Soledad JROTC and Chief Peaches, along with Sergio Ayala, Rebecca Hernandez, Abel Luna, Jonathan Velasquez and Maria Ramirez for the presentation of the colors;
- Cpl. Castillo, who provided me with some incredible young people from our very own Gonzales Explorers, Janette Jimenez, Victor Fierros, Adary Lopez, Vicente Davila, Abraham Casillas and Anthony Cisneros. These young men and women volunteered to be on the firing squad that carries on a tradition that originated here in Gonzales, where a 21-gun salute is rendered after the names of the fallen are read;
- Steve Fellows and Abel Avila, along with their team who put the Memorial Day BBQ together;
- The Auxiliary for providing delicious baked goods; and
- All the volunteers who donated their time to make our Memorial Day possible.
Lastly, thank you to Gonzales for always making me proud to be a part of this great community.
And a word to the wise, I have a 1999 Audi A6 with 365,000 miles on it and I just found out you are supposed to change the transmission fluid every 30,000 miles. If anyone has an extra Audi transmission let me know. In the meantime, I’m on my way to change the fluid.