by Susan Sey
Today is Memorial Day. Summer is now officially open for business. Up here in the north land, Memorial Day is when the swimming pools open up. It's when public parks turn on the drinking fountains & put out the portapotties. It's when we throw caution to the wind and finally plant the darn tomatoes, late season blizzards be damned.
It's also the day our nation sets aside to pay tribute to the men and women who've died while serving in our armed forces.
This is not a surprise to me. Nor should it be at the end of my What Memorial Day Means to Me list. My dad served in a National Guard unit in the sixties. My Uncle Harry was Air Force. My grandpa served the Army in WWI. My father-in-law spent his entire career in the Air Force, and my brother-in-law flew fighter jets for the Navy. My Uncle Bill was...well, he was colorful. As I believe a lot of sailors are. But they all came through their service --thank God--healthy & whole.
And they brought stories with them when they came home. Lord, the stories these men brought home. My Uncle Bill especially. When we were kids we never got tired of hearing the one where he was standing guard on some ship & did the whole "Halt, who goes there?" routine on a superior officer named Marvel. A captain, as it happened. Captain Marvel.
Uncle Bill: "Halt! Who goes there?"
Captain Marvel: "Captain Marvel."
UB: "Riiiiiiight. Really, now. Who goes there?"
CM, with strained patience: "Captain. Marvel."
UB, skeptically: "Mmm-hmm. Mmmm-hmm. Captain Marvel?"
CM: "That's right."
UB: "Can I be Superman?"
Apparently, they really do make you peel potatoes for mouthing off in the military. That's not just Beetle Bailey stuff. At least according to my Uncle Bill, who--admittedly--wasn't the most reliable of sources. We were never sure when we were kids where the line was between fact & fiction when it came to his stories, but it hardly mattered. That wasn't the point. It was all about the story and the picture he painted with his words and that three-pack-a-day-and-a-shot-of-whiskey voice.
Now when most people die, their friends and relatives tell stories about them at the funeral. When my Uncle Bill died, we told stories about his stories. It was a powerful reminder to me of how important stories are. They're an honor and a tribute, a temporary recreation of something fleeting and human. They're a kind of magic, really. And I can't think of a better way to recognize the service and sacrifice of our soldiers than by performing that particular magic in their honor.
It's war story day in the Lair! Pull up a log, sit around our virtual campfire, have a beer or a soda or a s'more and tell us about your favorite soldier. I'll bet I'm not the only one with an Uncle Bill hanging out in the family tree. Come on--share!