I Remember

Memorial Day in the United States is Monday.  Many are enjoying friends and family during the long weekend.  Merchants have sales going on.  I saw some fireworks for sale in a grocery store a couple of days ago.  I heard two sports radio talents talking about going to the beach, relaxing, cooking out and other activities.  At least they did mention to remember those serving in the military.   So, what is Memorial Day and how should we celebrate, or should we?

Memorial Day is not Veterans Day.  It’s not the Fourth of July.  It’s not Labor Day and other typical holidays. 

Photo of Civil War image

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring those who died while serving in the U.S. military.  It was originally known as Decoration Day, originating years after the Civil War, which ended in 1865 and claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history.  Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971.  https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history

By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to the countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.

St. Augustine National Cemetery

During World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict. The time of remembrance was then changed to remember American military personnel who died in all wars. 

Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30 for decades until Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968, creating Memorial Day as the last Monday in May, which established Memorial Day as a federal holiday that enabled a three-day weekend for federal employees. 

Service members, veterans and their families know there is a big difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. While Veterans Day, Nov. 11, is a day set aside to celebrate all veterans, Memorial Day is a somber holiday dedicated to honor military fallen, with a special focus on those killed during military service or through enemy contact. https://www.military.com/memorial-day

Both holidays often include parades, ceremonies and celebrations. But although Memorial Day also traditionally marks the beginning of summer with picnics and parties, many in the military community believe that at least a portion of it should be set aside to mourn and honor the fallen.

I want to go a litter further though.  Yes, Memorial Day was established for those who bore the weight of battle to the last degree, but what about those who came back changed to the degree they felt there was no reason for them to continue living?

Don’t these military members experience a certain death, whether physical injury like loss of limb, traumatic brain injury and mental health challenges?  While they may be here physically, mentally some may be elsewhere, or think there is no need to continue living – but yes, there is a need and a reason. 

We owe our support and gratitude to those who served – going when and where the nation needed them.

I know the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) is doing a great work and is constantly working on behalf of our veterans.  One of their studies can be found at https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/2016suicidedatareport.pdf.  And, I realize the national suicide rate continues to climb with our general population.  Let’s continue getting to the root cause though and never abandon our pursuit to not loose one life. 

Each life is precious, deserving the best care and support possible.  I recall a personal situation where one Soldier returned from combat.  His mother noticed a change in behavior, how he was more quiet and secluded, as well as not sleeping well.  This behavior had changed from the son she knew before deployment. 

The mother notified the unit the Soldier deployed with.  The unit made an appointment with the VA and he received medication.  The mother called weeks later.  She mentioned her son had stopped taking his medication and was missing for over a week.  He was later found by law enforcement. Full military funeral honors were given to honor this fallen Solder. 

There are so many factors related to the mental health of those serving in stressful situations, and encountering things the human brain has difficulty comprehending.  Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common term we’ve head for years now.  Stress can lead to deep mental health concerns if not managed.  

I personally think the “disorder” terminology should be discarded.  Let’s deal with the post-traumatic stress, or even depression – helping the person with his or her individual behavior, concerns and providing all that can be provided within our medical achievements.

With proper recognition of symptoms, showing care, effective individual treatment and being a caring community, we can curtail the loss of life. 

Still, may we continue remembering those who have passed from our presence – giving their all in the line-of-duty. 

How do other countries remember those who died fighting for their freedoms, or who have experienced the burden of conflict?  Is freedom even important that one would die trying to gain it, or keep it? 

Let’s never forget those who sacrificed so much, and their families who long to celebrate with their loved one if he or she was here.

I have had the solemn honor of meeting with family members when they first learned of their military member’s death.  I still see the pain and the sorrow.  I tried to comfort and help families the best I could during some of their darkest moments. 

I’ve had the solemn honor of rendering military honors with firing salutes, folding the U.S. flag for presentation, and presenting the flag of the United States of America to the closest next-of-kin, softly speaking these words:  “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army (or Air Force) and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.

I will always remember these special moments.  I have a special affection for these Families who remain to carry on the remembrance of their Soldiers. 

So, Memorial Day 20l9, let’s take a few minutes to at least remember and show respect. 

We can still celebrate because that is one of the reasons our brothers and sisters fought so valiantly, to their last breath, to gain and maintain these freedoms we enjoy.  Let’s also include those who are still with us today, and not let them become a statistic too. 

I will remember!

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

Remembering the sacrifice

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Taps are played by the Florida National Guard at the National Cemetery in St. Augustine to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. (RonLin Photography)

Throughout the world, and history, there have been those who served honorably for the cause of freedom so our nations may have peace from conflict, enabling them to pursue and enjoy the rights bestowed upon each individual.  Let’s not let go of these sacrifices.

Although each nation does not have a perfect union I am thankful for the rights we hold dear today – and the sacrifice of those who helped make it possible to have a free society, allowing us to dream and follow those dreams freely.

Memorial Day is an annual, formal holiday in the United States to honor military service members who died in the line of duty.  The date changes each year but is held on the last Monday in May.  It was originally called Decoration Day, as the holiday was centered on decorating the graves of those who had fallen in the U.S. Civil War.   http://www.holidayscalendar.com/event/memorial-day/

I want to highlight the U.S. National Cemetery in St. Augustine, Fla. as the 2018 emphasis to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

St. Augustine National Cemetery - VA Admin photo
The U.S. National Cemetery in St. Augustine, Fla. is managed by Veterans Affairs. (VA Photo)    https:/cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/staugustine

St. Augustine National Cemetery traces its history back to a Spanish monastery founded during the 18th century.  Today, the cemetery perhaps is best known as the home of the Dade Pyramids, believed to be the oldest memorial in any national cemetery.  The cemetery also features a unique Spanish Colonial-style superintendent’s lodge designed to complement the historic architecture found throughout St. Augustine.  https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/national_cemeteries/florida/st_augustine_national_cemetery.html

Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, the city of St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited European city in the United States.  According to the National Park Service the land upon which the national cemetery sits was originally part of a Franciscan monastery that operated until the English took possession of Florida in 1763, converting the monastery into the St. Francis Barracks.  The Spanish regained possession of the territory in 1783 and held it until 1821, when Florida became a part of the United States; all the while, the site remained a military installation.

A portion of the yard at the St. Francis Barracks was set aside for use as a post cemetery, with the first burials occurring in 1828.  Most of the early burials in the cemetery were casualties of the Indian Wars, a series of conflicts waged between 1817 and 1858 as the United States forcibly removed Native Americans, notably the Seminole tribes, to lands west of the Mississippi.  Later burials include those of Union soldiers. Although Florida seceded in 1861, Union troops captured St. Augustine in March 1862 when the gunboat Wabash entered the harbor.

In 1881, the post cemetery was elevated in status to a national cemetery, as stated by the National Park Service.  “St. Augustine National Cemetery covers a 1.3-acre rectangular site at the edge of what was once the walled Spanish city.  The northern half of the grounds are enclosed by locally quarried Coquina stone walls, while a wrought-iron fence surrounds the southern half.  Four pedestrian gates, two each along the eastern and western walls, allow access to the cemetery.  Walkways connect each gate to its counterpart along the opposite wall, and a central avenue serves as the physical and symbolic link between the flagpole at the north end of the grounds and the Dade Pyramids at the south end.  Also at the north end of the cemetery is the superintendent’s lodge.  Built in 1938 out of Coquina stone, the lodge is in the Spanish Colonial style, like much of St. Augustine.  The nearby rostrum is also composed of Coquina stone.”

The cemetery is a solemn and appropriate location to recognize those who championed freedom through the ages.  The public gathers annually for the Memorial Day ceremony.

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Representatives from various veteran and military organizations parade their colors to begin the annual ceremony at the National Cemetery in St. Augustine. (RonLin Photography)

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World War II veterans who remain continue to show their respect for those who served and died.  (RonLin Photography)

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Honors are presented to remind those present that we will not forget.  Providing the honors is typically done by the Florida National Guard, Florida Department of Military Affairs, local law enforcement and veteran organizations. (RonLin Photography)

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We salute those who died serving on behalf of a grateful nation to help secure and maintain the freedoms we hold dear today.  (RonLin Photography)

Let us take time around the world to recognize those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nations, including their families.  Where would we be today had it not been for them.

With Love, Ron

#memorialday2018

St. Augustine National Cemetery is located at 104 Marine St. in St. Augustine, FL.  The cemetery is open for visitation daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm; on Memorial Day the cemetery is open for visitation from 8:00am to 7:00pm.  No cemetery staff is present onsite.  For more information, please contact the cemetery office at 904-766-5222, or see the Department of Veterans Affairs website.  While visiting, please be mindful that our national cemeteries are hallowed ground.  Be respectful to all of our nation’s fallen soldiers and their families.  Additional cemetery policies may be posted on site.