There are so many thoughts I have on Memorial Day: Of noble lives that never lived past their 21st birthday; of beautiful lives that have recently passed on to eternity, of the few who still remain; and of the memories that will be left when all are gone. I didn't used to think of Memorial Day, a day of remembrance, like that - partly because I was too little and partly because I just didn't understand. The truth is that we will never understand, but we can grasp at parts, bits, and pieces. My realization came a couple of years with the last WWI veteran, Frank Buckles. I had written a letter and was planning to meet him, if possible, but it was too late. Mr. Buckles passed away just a little after his 110th birthday, and just before I sent me letter.
A few months ago, my family and I visited the National Museum of the Pacific in Fredericksburg. It must have been 10 years since we had last been there, and we were enjoying seeing the expanded exhibits. While walking through the section on the Battle of Okinawa, I pressed a button for short oral histories, not knowing what to expect, and what I heard was deeply stirring to me.
Burt Cooper had been a medic during the Battle of Okinawa. One day he was taking care of a young Marine. The boy didn't have long to live, and both knew it. So, distraught, he said to Cooper, "I'm an orphan. I don't have any brothers or sisters. When I die, who will there be to remember me? Who will know what I did?" Cooper told him, "Don't worry. I will remember you."
Across the aisle from the boy lay a Gunnery Sergeant, a "big ugly Marine who everybody loved." When Cooper came over to him, the Marine said, "Doc, who will remember me when I die. No one knows be back home. Who will remember me?" Again Cooper said, "Don't worry. I will remember you." Within a day or so, both the orphan and the ugly Marine died. Cooper finished his oral history, "Ever since then, not a day has passed that I have not thought of the orphan or the GySgt. And if I don't remember during the day, I think of them when I lie in bed at night." Thanks to Burt Cooper, those two brave Marines will never be forgotten.
My dad wrote something for Memorial Day that was so perfect and beautifully written that I had to include it here.
Never forget. Never stop remembering. When you look to the future and plan what the next 10, 15, 20 years will be for you, remember this: that someone had to give up his future so you can live yours. This is a noble thing, and should not be forgotten.