Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day Meanderings

It’s the Saturday before Memorial Day and I’m kicking back, reading Jeff Shaara’s “Steel Wave”, his new novel about the Normandy Invasion and I’m also watching “Band of Brothers” on the History Channel (about the 4th or 5th time). And it gets me to thinking about Memorial Day.

My father spent 31 years in the military, first as a draftee in WWII--where he served on the ground in Europe from D-Day until after V-E Day—then, after a year or so hiatus back on the family farm, in the Air Force finally retiring as an E-8. After that he worked for the state of Florida until he passed away. He never spent a day fully “retired”.

He always described his military career as “being in the service”. That’s what he would tell people he would meet and how he would describe himself even at home. I’m sure that he would have described his 20 years as a food products inspector for the Florida Dept. of Agriculture as being in the service too.

Dad described himself as “poor white-trash from the hills of Kentucky”. He was a man who eventually earned a GED and, like so many of his generation, was articulate, knowledgeable and self-educated. This man with a GED trained people with MAs in science in how to do their jobs. Not bad for “poor white trash”. Except he overcame all that; worked hard and raised a family and ended up with a pretty good life.

When we take our 3 day weekend for Memorial Day we’re supposed to remember those who have served. Most of us don’t. We’re too busy grilling and sipping beer and watching sports on the tube. Relaxing with our paid days off.

And there’s that word again. Service. That always seemed to be important. To be OF service as well as IN the service. Not enough of us do that. And not enough of us appreciate it. And Dad did it back when the pay was far less compared to other occupations than what it is today (in other words when it really was a sacrifice to be a public servant).

Appreciate those who serve, no matter in what capacity. If you’re young and just starting out in your career, give serious consideration to being of service by engaging in an occupation where you actively serve others, the community and the nation. It’s one of the most noble callings on earth.

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