Don’t Forget to Remember

The car’s air conditioning kept me cool, but Grandma insisted we step outside in the glaring sun and relentless heat. Not one to argue, at least not audibly, I slid out and joined her on the hot sidewalk.

We stood without speaking, watching a solemn procession following a black hearse into the cemetery.

We’d come to town for farm supplies and this was a detour I hadn’t expected. But once Grandma saw the procession, she and every other person in proximity stopped what they were doing to “pay their respects”. This was a first for me.

Oh sure, I knew about the Vietnam war.  Even at twelve I was aware that young men were traveling halfway across the world to fight communism. Although I had no clue what fighting communism meant. 

But what it meant today was evident. In the glare of the mid-afternoon sun, a family gathered around an open grave.

We watched in silence as a group of men hoisted a flag-draped casket and slowly walked to the gravesite. I observed the grieving family, an older man was holding onto a woman who was sobbing openly. Grandma stood stoically on the sidewalk and raised her hand to her heart.

Nearby, others were doing the same. No one seemed to notice the intense heat, only the intense loss for this family.  Some saluted, others bowed their heads, and all remained silent as we honored a fallen soldier.

Returning to the comfort of the air conditioned car Grandma drove in silence along the rural road back to the farm.

Then she spoke words I recall as clearly as that small funeral procession on a hot summer day, “That family will never be the same. We should remember their loss.”

Maybe we don’t all agree on the wars we have fought, but for all the brave soldiers who died in service to our nation, may I never forget to remember the cost they and their families have paid.

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