Every year, we have a community barbecue of major proportions (and portions) for Memorial Day, like a lot of other folks across the United States on this three-day-weekend. We also, not surprisingly given the genesis of Paradise Valley Estates, precede it with a Memorial Day Ceremony that includes raising and lowering of the National Ensign to half-staff, Taps, invocations, pledges, brief remembrances, singing, benedictions and other protocols appropriate to the careers of this mostly military retirement community.
There are some extraordinary tales among our residents. Along with a few fifty-mission+ pilots from WWII we have a retired Army nurse who served then in an honest-to-goodness M.A.S.H. unit. A Navy Captain, Chaplain, spent three years during the Korean War imbedded with Marines on the front lines. Many of the chaplains chose to carry a 45, he did not; the Master Sergeant told him “Chaplain, we’ll take care of you! Your job is to take care of us!”
A Navy pilot my age was the one assigned to take photos, over several days, from his specially equipped carrier-based fighter jet, at high speed, 100 feet off the deck, of the missiles being unloaded in Havana harbor from Soviet supply ships, that gave Jack Kennedy the evidence he needed to face down Nikita Khrushchev. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross after getting away on afterburners with two MiGs on his tail.
Another of our Navy pilots splashed his jet into a rice paddy and spent seven years as a guest in the Hanoi Hilton. None of these military folks assigned themselves to these places, that privilege under our Constitution lies with our civilian government; they simply performed as assigned.
Memorial Day (née Decoration Day) was created after the Civil War to decorate the graves of the Union Soldiers. A few decades later, the Union and Confederate remembrances were combined, and now of course it includes all those who died in military service. Every time I put on my 1776 team shirt from our Arizona production of that musical drama I am reminded of the 56 signers of our Declaration of Independence, who in print pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
They’re on my Memorial Day list too.
Much love, God Bless you, and this wonderful nation–crafted by those who came before us. And may your hamburgers be done just right.
It is the veteran, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the veteran, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the veteran, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the veteran, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.
It is the veteran, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the veteran, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.