THE PRICE OF FORGETTING IS TOO HIGH
At past Memorial Day ceremonies conducted by members of the V. F. W. and American Legion Posts, I’ve often wondered why there are only a handful of Post members present, with a scattering of public citizens.
“They remember,” the answer comes.
“But, since all Americans experience freedom, aren’t we too called upon to remember the price our freedom extracted?” I ask.
To me, Memorial Day is about remembering the one who signed a blank check to the United States, guaranteeing the withdrawal of his life if necessary. And it has been necessary, thousands and thousands of times, as evidenced by the many flags marking graves throughout our country on Memorial Day.
My Vietnam veteran husband Richard found Memorial Day difficult. That is, he would watch on TV the different ceremonies across the U. S. to commemorate the fallen soldiers. At each one, he would wipe his eyes as “Taps” was played. “Gets to me every time,” he’d gruffly say. Yet he wouldn’t turn off the TV. He needed to remember.
“Taps” was originally known as a lullaby, and was incorporated into the military during the Civil War. It was simply a call at the end of a soldier’s day for rest, along the same lines as “Reveille” was blasted each morning to start a soldier’s day.
It took on greater meaning when it was assigned to military funerals. The lyrics were written by Horace Lorenzo Trim and begin with:
“Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh…”
For me to go on as Richard’s widow, I can only think of him as safely resting on that hillside at Willamette National Cemetery with Mt. Hood gazing upon him from a distance. Richard now rests from the combat nightmares I would have to calm him down from in the darkest hour of night. He now rests from hypervigilence, where he quickly ascertained the exit to any public facility we visited and always had to sit facing the door of a restaurant. He rests from the combat bullet wound which pierced his leg. And he rests from the lung cancer which spread to his brain, caused by exposure to toxic fumes and chemicals during his military service.
For the price of freedom, what does it cost us to remember? Only the effort to set aside time to drive to your local cemetery and spend not more than 30 minutes at the posting of the flag while “Taps” is played. Each name engraved on a headstone with a small flag by its side will speak from the grave, “I fought for that flag. I fought for freedom’s sake.”
We must remember the price of freedom, for the price of forgetting is even higher.
Rest in peace, my love. I will always remember.
Originally published May 18, 2016 in the La Grande Observer newspaper. Reprinted with permission.