Our first "real" Memorial Day

Up until this year, I kind of grouped Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and July 4th all into one, happy, red white and blue celebration of our country and our veterans. My dad spent his last Memorial Day with us last year, and broke it down for me. Never did I think it would be so soon that I would understand the difference.

Veterans Day (November 11th) is for the living. He used to come into my classroom and read Eve Bunting's My Red Balloon to the kids, as they asked him questions and he answered with great long tales about his days aboard his ship in the South Pacific.

Memorial Day is not exactly for the living. By definition, it is in memory of those who have passed. It may mark the unofficial beginning to summer, but our living veterans would tell you that it is not "their holiday" and is for reflecting about those we've lost. I am not discounting anyone's parties, parades, or time spent with loved ones at all. Any excuse to bring people together is good, but I hope everyone remembered to think of those who are gone.

So, we did that. We tried a few new things this year, and no parade. Last year, we decided that dad would be in the parade in 2016 and I was already starting the arrangements for that. This year, none of us could really find it in our hearts to watch it without him.

So, off to the Field of Heroes in Westerville. This place takes your breath away, with hundreds of flags and thousands of handmade, ceramic poppies made by local schoolchildren. We saw that we could buy a flag in memory of my dad for next year, which we will definitely do.

There was also an Honor Flight booth there, and I presented them the donation that was made possible by anyone who bought our Adventures Await tee shirts. This was also when I had my first cry and I tried to explain the project and what their organization means to our family. Thank you so much for your donations, making it possible for more veterans to get the change to fly to Washington DC and visit their own war memorial.

After that, Rhys and I attempted to watch the parade in front of our neighborhood, but he was done with excitement for the day. We took a walk, following the veterans and flag corps down to the local cemetery. There, we found some peace. I was overwhelmed by the number of flags there. I am not sure who sets out a flag for each veteran's monument, but I would say at least half of the monuments had flags (hundreds!!).

I met some new friends down there, including a man born in 1925, enlisted at 18, and went to Okinawa in the Navy. Exactly like my dad. They were there at the same time and experienced the same typhoon my dad always talked about!  Crazy. I just hate that they never got to meet.

After some naps, Nana came over for dinner and then we headed to the Dublin Grounds of Remembrance. It sits right behind my school and is a place I like to visit to think about my dad. My favorite part is the the wall where you can stash little notes to your loved ones. Larkyn asked "When will Pawpaw come down to read it?"

My other favorite part? When I was trying to get this portrait of Larkyn and Nana. She caught sight of a "red robin" (cardinal) and was so excited. About an hour before this, my friend Mo was checking in on me and said "Are there any cardinals around you?" "Uhh what?" And she sent me this link. I know he was there.

We let the kids roam around, throw rocks, examine flags (we followed all flag rules, don't worry), play in the flowers, and just be kids. Getting a photo of both at once was tricky, but I am glad I got Nana in there too.

Sorry for photo overload. It was a beautiful day, and not sad. I am constantly distracted by the kids, and if I let myself think about the loss of my dad, it literally feels like a cave opens up in my chest. I am not quite sure if their distraction is good or bad, but staying busy has helped and will continue to help as we move toward the one year anniversary of losing my favorite veteran.


Nana said...

So beautiful. I think we had a good day. New sights and sounds. I love the story of the cardinal. We have had so many at our tree in the back yard this year...now I know why. I'm so glad it was a happy day! Love you, and your stories.

Sandi said...


You have done a great job describing and illustrating your Memorial Day experience. This would make a wonderful children's book for children that have lost a loved veteran as well as teaching about the holiday. You are correct people young and old have difficulty with the meaning and purpose of Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day.

Tamara Kuhlmann said...

Beautiful, Stacie. Reminds me so much of my dad, who passed on 13 years ago, and was also a WWll veteran, same age as your dad. I still miss him terribly. Your dad Bob was such a gift to all who had the pleasure to know him and work with him. He will always be in our hearts. Thank you for this blog. It would make a wonderful children's book.
Tami K.

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