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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Memorial Day Traditions: Year Two

Ok, so I’m new to this, but I’ve got a couple.

New Tradition #1: Wear my “Fallen… but Not Forgotten” t-shirt

This shirt was created by some graduates of the United States Naval Academy to honor their fallen Navy Football brethren. “What?” you say. “Your sister went to the Academy, and she rowed crew – what are you doing with a football shirt?” Right, I know, but what I’ve learned is that loyalties are strong (recall that I also have a t-shirt that simply says “BEAT ARMY”) and family members of Mids instinctively support all Mids. I still remember getting the forwarded email about the t-shirt project from my sister while working in my office in Atlanta. I didn’t hesitate and wrote to the designated e-mail address with my order. The only consideration was whether I should order one or two shirts. I ended up with two, because the t-shirts were created as a salute to the Fallen but also as a fundraiser for memorial funds. Here’s what it says on the back of the shirt:


Winchester ‘01
Zellem ‘91
Blecksmith ‘03

“An inestimable prize, the understanding that health, good fortune, long years, domestic tranquility, all the attributes of personal happiness, do not make a life well lived if we are afraid to risk it all for the love of something finer, something bigger than our own desires.” - Senator John McCain

Navy Football Brotherhood

I still have the email that I got thanking me for my purchase and expressing surprise at the slightly “viral” support their project was getting: “Wow, I love seeing support come from so many places.” That was in December 2004. In June 2005, they sent an update that over 750 shirts had been sold and that they’d raised over $10,000. That response reassured me. It reassured me that there were other “random” respondents outside the Navy/Marine Corps football crowd that wanted to express their support. I get that same reassurance as a member of Soldiers’ Angels. Every little bit of support that is offered combines to generate a chorus that says over and over again, “Thank you and Godspeed." Alone it’s hard to send that message. Together it is quite amazingly possible.

The effort’s ringleaders included this quote at the end of their June ‘05 message:

“…may the blessings of Almighty God be with you all, may your love and generosity continue to flourish, and might you ever be proud to support and defend those who protect America and her freedoms.”

That last part, at least, is not a problem.

New Tradition #2: Attend the Memorial Day Parade in DC

Last year I watched the parade after hiking into the city from Arlington (wearing my t-shirt, of course). As I stood to watch, I remember having to hide my legs behind one of those giant concrete planters/safety barriers along Constitution Avenue because the day was boiling hot, and I could FEEL myself getting sunburned. From my strategic location, I watched as vets of every war since WWI marched past (the WWI vet was over 100 years old and got to ride in a car). I was dripping in a t-shirt and shorts, while Vietnam and Korean vets marched by in suits or uniform, many carrying flags - hard work especially in that sun, but you could tell that they wouldn’t have done it any other way.

I was pleased to be there last year – it was somewhat of an accident that I arrived there in time to see it as I thought it was earlier in the day and that I’d missed it. As we waited for the marchers to get to us, I remember seeing a couple come by on a motorcycle. They slowed and the woman riding on the back handed out small American flags to some children standing along the curb. I just found out a couple of weeks ago that those flags were being handed out by Soldiers’ Angels.

This Monday, if you’re at the parade in DC, it just might be me handing you a flag.

Will I see you there?

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