As Memorial Day approaches, I think of how many see the holiday as the unofficial beginning of summer over a 3-day weekend. If truth be told, at one time, I too saw it as the beginning of warm weather, outdoor grilling and the openings of swimming pools.
But after serving in the United States Navy, I began to see Memorial Day as so much more now than I did in my youth. I understand more than ever now that it’s a time to remember the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our great country.
The first military hero that I looked up to naturally was my Father, Eddie Clark. He served over 30 years in the United States Air Force. His occupation was military security police and during his last years, he served as an Air Force Captain airman instructor at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. My second military hero was my Uncle James Moore, Jr. who served over 30 years in the United States Navy as a Mess Specialist Master Chief. Uncle Jimmy participated in golf tournaments around the country when many African Americans never even thought about participating in playing golf. My third military hero was my Uncle Ralph Boyce who served 8 years in the United States Navy as a “Seabees” in a construction battalion mostly in the Philippine Islands helping to build military bases.
Each of these three men played a significant role in nurturing and mentoring me as I grew up in the small-town Cherryville, North Carolina. They were the motivators and mentors who each encouraged me to join the military in an era when it was an uncommon move for women to pursue. My heroes felt that my service in the military would empower me and grant me skills to succeed in opportunities otherwise closed to women. Throughout my military career, I gained wisdom and insight from my Dad and my Uncles who each helped me to persevere. They helped me endure the rigors of military life by drawing on their civilian and active duty experiences. Their counseling not only helped me through the military but has carried over into my civilian careers too.
When you have lost someone close who served in the military, every day is a kind of Memorial Day. Although it’s cliché to say it takes a special breed to serve in military service, it is true. It takes discipline, commitment, respect for others, and camaraderie. Showing goodwill and inclusion to diverse cultures of people existed in the military long before the principles carried over into the civilian worlds. Even in a time when our differences feel vast and insurmountable, we can rally around honoring the Veterans who gave their lives for the liberties and freedoms we know and enjoy daily. One Who Served
Once a year we collectively honor and show gratitude for the men and women who served and died for our great nation. People have a tendency to forget the purpose of Memorial Day and make it a day for games, races and revelry, instead of a day to remember sacrifices made by so many. We can demonstrate appreciation for the loyalty, values, and suffering of the brave Americans who are critical to all future freedoms of the United States.
As a Veteran, I feel an emotional connection and a profound obligation to never forget the purpose of Memorial Day. Veterans feel connected to one another. This connection whether past, present or future can only be explained to others as a brotherhood or a sisterhood. We have a kindred connection, a bond to one another that is real and unbreakable. A One Who Served Keepsake is a great way to keep that connection.
However, you choose to spend Memorial Day, whether by the pool or at a parade, try to remember why the holiday exists, something as a young girl I took for granted but have since learned to never take for granted.
Happy Memorial Day!