Observance

One does not "celebrate" Memorial Day. Rather, one observes the day and keeps in heart and mind those who paid the ultimate price for the freedom that we enjoy in the United States. Memorial Day will always hold a more particular meaning for me given my experience of the last few years. I've carried the bodies of young men on their first steps back home. I have buried airmen lost in the current war here at Arlington. All veterans of our many wars to secure our freedom will tell you one thing, freedom does not come on the cheap -- there is always a price to pay to defend our nation against evil and tyranny. I was especially reminded of this as I have had the opportunity to see a couple of times at various events these past weeks, the family of one of those airmen I buried in the past few years. Their young children have grown, but they are still very much young children.

As I head for my next duty station, I will treasure the opportunity to have participated in "flags in" while here in the D.C. area. These past years I've served at Arlington, the chaplain team has gathered and placed the flags on chaplain's hill, a place reserved for military chaplains here at Arlington.

I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it,
and then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.

I heard the sound of TAPS one night,
When everything was still
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That TAPS had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn't free.
- Kelly Strong