The following post was written by my good friend Nathan Gee:
I recently had the privilege of joining my son with his Cub Scout pack, as well as several other cub, boy, and girl scout groups at the cemetery for the annual refreshing of the flags on the veterans' graves.
The instructions were simple enough, find all the old, weathered, flags at the grave markers and replace them with a fresh US flag to ensure that all the veterans were appropriately honored for Memorial Day.
The boys loved it. They raced from grave to grave, trying to be the first to the next grave. I lagged a little behind, holding the old flags and keeping a supply of fresh flags.
As I walked, I saw names come and go. Some were honored by parents. Many were laid to rest next to a spouse. Some obviously died in combat while many lived full lives. Some had their position in the military engraved on their tombstones, others tombstones made no mention of their military service. Most of the flag-holders placed next to the headstones indicated active military service in a time of war.
I wondered of the stories that may have accompanied the names. Did they actively enlist? Were they drafted? Was their service a source of pride they frequently remembered, or was the greatness of their sacrifice lost, buried beneath the nightmares of the horrors of war?
My grandfather was a World War II veteran. We visited him every Sunday evening until I moved out of the home. During all those many visits, I only recall a time or two where he spoke of his experiences in the war, and he spoke soberly when he did.
His silence on the subject was totally lost on me at the time, but now makes me wonder at the cost of war that we often conveniently forget. We send young men and young women, often fresh out of high school, to fight to solve the problems of the world. We imagine the honor of defending freedom will be adequate to carry them through the emotional trials that may follow their sacrifice. My mission president explained once to me, "War is hell." We are truly asking our youth to march into hell with the hope of bringing about a greater good.
This Memorial Day I pay tribute to these veterans who served my country. Some fought during times of war, some rebuilt during times of peace. Some laid down their lives, others were survived, but with significant physical injuries; everyone was changed.
Thank you for your service. Thank you for enduring what I have not, and what I can not imagine. I will gladly replenish your flag as a small token of remembrance to you.