On Memorial Day I had the opportunity to witness a memorial in San Francisco, aboard a submarine, the USS Pampanito, a submarine that was used in WWII and Korea. The United States submarine service suffered the highest percentage of casualties than any other of the services that served in WWII. They also sank over 55% of all Japanese shipping sunk in WWII. This was all pointed out to me with pride by several of these veterans.
As our National Anthem was played over the speaker system some of them started to cry as they remembered all of their fallen comrades, the ones that served with them, and the ones that did not. I thought about how many of these veterans brothers had made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may all enjoy the freedom this country offers.
As we stood for the Pledge of Allegiance I saw the reaction on their faces, it was a thoughtful, respectful look, a look of such sadness. I thought about what my dad's submarine veterans group was really all about "To perpetuate the memory of our shipmates who gave their lives while serving in the United State Naval Submarines" I then started to cry myself with the realization of what that really meant . All those old sailors, my dad included, standing on the deck of an old submarine holding the flag with such pride and sadness.
Then it was time for the speakers to give their speeches about their experiences and the meaning of Memorial Day. A WWII veteran talked about the hardships and struggles and the fact that he was lucky to be alive when so many of his brothers had fallen victim to the war. One talked about how it was up to the veterans to teach "our children about the sacrifices made by so many". Another said, "that America will only be the land of the free so long as it is the home of the Brave". So many of the speakers spoke with so much pride about America that it was hard not to think about all the people who have no idea what this holiday is really about. While they go to their Bar B Q's and beaches there are some who keep up a tradition of pride in service to the United States of America and remember all those who had fallen, and rejoice in the ones who still live and remember. Let none of us ever forget what Memorial Day really is.