Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

Ahhh, sweet mother of holiday weekends! Memorial Day. Three days to rest, relax, and recover. However, my veteran status doesn't allow me to forget what the weekend is really about: honoring those who fought for our country.

In the 80's, I was stationed at Fort Drum, NY - a little (then) reserve post right outside of Watertown. The folks in the neighboring towns were very patriotic. And so, every year Fort Drum was asked to provide soldiers for the memorial service held in town.

My very first year, I was called to be on the Color Guard. I was supposed to feel honored to be chosen; after all, only the "best" were sent to represent Ft. Drum. Instead, I was pissed. I had just had CQ the weekend before, and now I was going to lose another weekend because I had duty. It just wasn't fair!

The four of us "chosen" ones spent time after hours practicing. And again I was pissed. I could be having fun with my friends, but NOOooooo, I had to hang out with these three lumps and practice our moves.

Finally, Memorial Day came. We had to wear our Class A uniforms, so of course we were inspected before we went. We passed. Then we were driven to a cemetery. We were too far away to hear the speech that was given. On cue, we marched in and did the 21-Gun Salute. In less than 30 minutes, the whole ceremony was over.

Or so we thought.

After the ceremony, all sorts of people flocked over to us. "Thank you so much for being here," they said over and over. "We so appreciate you using your holiday to help us." We were thanked for our service. For our unselfishness. For so many things. Do I even need to mention that I felt guilty for not wanting to be there?

I was overcome with pride when I began to talk to the townspeople, many of which were veterans themselves. They treated us to doughnuts and then we were back on our way to Drum to enjoy the rest of the day, sans uniform.

In the years that followed, I ended up being tasked for that duty several more times. The only difference? I stopped complaining.

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