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Memorial Day: More Than BBQ and Blackout Cakes

Memorial Day: More Than BBQ and Blackout Cakes

I am going to be truthful about my thoughts of Memorial Day. When I was younger it was a day that kicked off the Summer. I knew that soon I was going to be out of school and I could finally throw down the backpack and sleep in past 6 a.m. In college it was that extra weekend I spent with friends before traveling South for the summer. Now over the last couple of years, my opinion of this day has changed, even more so now since the Veterans Administration has come under fire for cooking their books.

In my family, there is a long line of military service. Two of my uncles served during Vietnam as well as my mother. My Uncle Donnie was a Marine Corp Veteran and cartoonist. During my last two years of high school, he was there helping doing the small stuff. When I looked back on his life, I believe I will always remember his smile and knack for teaching me the correct way to iron my clothes. Did Vietnam affect him more than most of the soldiers that came home? I think his prospective, in my opinion, was that he survived when most did not. He never talked about that time. Even when the journalist part of me wanted to ask more questions. He did not die during Vietnam. That is a true fact. But he left something behind.

I think during any war or conflict everyone leaves something behind, whether they were directly involved or not. My Uncle Donnie died a couple years ago and during this time where there was talk about his problems, I would rather remember the good memories I have of him as a child. The man who bought me cookies and soda when I wasn't suppose to have it. The man who walked me to the school bus a couple times because it was pitch black and I was more than a little scared to take that trek in the woods alone. I will remember him for the good because that's all I can allow myself to do right now.

My Uncle Ken was a Marine, too. I remember seeing this photo book back when I was about fourteen years-old of him and his friends. I remember my mom going through some boxes before a family reunion and deciding to bring the photos with her. I remember him smiling at some and not at others. I think it was to the fact that some of his friends did not come back home. He never spoke too much about his time there with me. I honestly was a bit scared to ask. Uncle Ken was a little intimidating when I was a child and I think having to crank my neck and look up every time I had a conversation with him had something to do with it. While my short stature still stuck with me, I thought he was less intimidating now that I was older.

Most of my memories of family have been centered around food and with those memories I can still remember him manning the grill with my uncles and talking about the latest game no matter the sport or political situation that had came up on the news. He genuinely enjoyed the company of others and was a generous man. He died almost two weeks ago and I don’t think the full impact of his death has hit me yet. No he did not die during combat but he was changed by it.

Memorial Day is one of those holidays that most people can get a four day weekend out of. I think remembering the fallen and those who sacrificed their lives is far from anyones mind when laughing with friends, cooking BBQ and playing on the beach. I was one of those people. The four day weekender, who thought of this time as a reprieve from the hustle of life. But with my uncles deaths and having friends who served my prospective is different now. I will still be happy to spend this time with friends, but in the back of my mind I will think of my uncles because there is no way of getting around this holiday and its meaning as they were soldiers that served their country.