Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

I have no credentials when it comes to talking about a military-related holiday. I'm not close to any current service people and I don't know all that much about my grandfathers' service. I do know that my grandfather that has passed away earned a purple heart in the 1950's - something I was proud to learn years ago. But truthfully, that is the extent of it.

Even so, I have something to share, because I feel compelled to honor this situation today of all days.




One day in March, I had to run some errands, and I noticed that a few houses had a bunch of mini American flags in their yards, staked near the curb. I quickly racked my brain for every patriotic holiday I could think of and decided that there was nothing going on in March - it must be a neighborly thing or something. There's this little brick house at the end of our street that is known for being "the party house". They'd have beer pong tournaments (like 4 different tables playing simultaneously!) on the weekends - right in their front yard! Matt actually asked me recently if I thought a bunch of college kids rented it out or something. These little flags I was noticing were the most concentrated at "the party house" and seemed to thin out the farther you went in any direction. It didn't seem odd to me, though, because this house was always dressed up like it was the 4th of July. I knew they had a family member in the military, because they'd have this huge, painted wooden sign that said "Welcome Home, Billy!" displayed in their large front yard at random times. I just assumed their nearest neighbors were getting ready to welcome him home again, or maybe joining in on the pride for a bit.

Later that day, my husband and I noticed a small group of people walking down the street with bags. They'd pause at each house (including ours) and add one of these small flags to each lawn. Something was definitely up.

I tried googling things, but I don't think I was searching with the right criteria, because nothing came up. So I sat for a few minutes, trying to think of what could be going on - and then my stomach fell as I recalled reading a newspaper article earlier that week.

The article was about a man that was killed in Afghanistan. He was a native of my current town. It's a small town (hamlet, actually), that only consists of a few miles, but even so - I didn't realize HOW close to home this was. Down the street? From the party house? That's Billy? I looked for the article again to confirm my suspicions - and sure enough, the man who died was named William. He was only 26.

Over the days that followed, something wonderful began happening on my street. Neighbors started putting out their full-sized flags, breaking out their independence day decorations months in advance, adding mini-flags to their collection along the curb. Many mornings I'd see clumps of neighbors standing around their flag collections, no doubt talking about Billy. The patriotism and honor that poured out of our homes was palpable. Driving down our street was absolutely chilling. Just coming home from the grocery store gave me chills! To think of what all of these people were doing for one man and his family, and the sacrifices they all made - it warmed my heart. It made me so proud!

About a week after the article originally went out, our "party house" neighbors put out their "Welcome Home, Billy!" sign again. We all knew what this meant - his body made it back home. Camera crews were on every street corner in our little town on the day of his funeral. Flags everywhere. Complete strangers shedding tears. I was so compelled that day, I stopped at the store for a card and mailed it to them. This man sure touched a lot of lives.

You know, every time I saw the "Welcome Home, Billy!" sign...I hoped it would be the last. Meaning he was home for good. I didn't know him personally, nor did I ever have a close experience with a military lifestyle - but I just hated the idea that these neighbors of ours were missing someone they obviously loved so very much. Every single tree in their yard had a yellow ribbon tied around it - everything that could be draped in red, white & blue - was. They were obviously very proud of him and what he was doing over there, but they deserved to have him home. It's unfair how short of a life he lived. As a mom myself, I can't even imagine how his mother felt when she got the news. I think the whole community is still very sad for them (as evidenced by all of our flags that we are STILL displaying - months later!). But we sure are proud to help honor him - today of all days.

1 comment:

  1. Oh how heart breaking. I started tearing up you got me all emotional girl. That was a good story. I try to remember to never judge a person or a book by its cover because we are all fighting a hard battle. This story just reminds me of that.

    ReplyDelete