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Memories for Memorial Day

As I sit here this Memorial Day thinking of everything that I have to be grateful for a few thoughts from the past come to my mind. Indulge me if you will while I share a thought.

Back in the day while I was in school I never really thought much about what Memorial Day meant. Being a 16 year old, a Senior in High School, I was just thinking of “YAY.. a day away from the grind of school.” And of course the obligatory cookout with the family. UNTIL….

Mr. Wood was my History teacher. An elderly gentleman whom had a lot to say with so many words. I enjoyed his class because he didn’t teach from a book per say. Oh he taught us things that we, as students, could never understand. You see, Mr. Wood was a veteran of the Army. What he taught us in class was survival. He taught us that no matter what circumstances we are in we can always make it through. Mr. Wood told us his war stories. He was a POW and a survivor of the Bataan Death Marches.

To begin with he was always telling us his stories and although, at first, I never really paid much attention because I was busy copying notes off the board. I soon began hurrying to get to his class to get the notes copied and then to listen to his tells. He would tell us about how the ship he was on sank and how he and the remainder of his men with him floated in the ocean, slowly dying off until they were captured by the enemy. Anyhow .. you get the idea.

It was the Friday before the Memorial Day Holiday and one of the kids in class asked him why he looked so sad and he said something I will never forget. Ever. He told us that this was a hard weekend for him because of all the friends he had lost in the War. He told us that while ‘we’ are out with our families having fun, he will be home remembering his buddies. He then asked us if we really knew what this day was about. Of course we didn’t know – we were just 16 year olds ready to be out of school. So he explained what the day meant to him.  It was about Honor, courage and sacrifice. It still is. I changed that day thanks to Mr. Wood. I changed because I no longer viewed this day as a fun day but a day of reverence and honor.

I can never repay the sacrifices of so many men and women. Men and women who gave their all to secure my rights as a free man (woman, person – not politically correct here). I can never repay those families that suffered those losses. I CAN honor them in remembering what this day means. I CAN honor them in my own way.

They cannot see or hear these words but Thank You to all who paid the ultimate sacrifice for my freedoms.



The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and are not not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

Melony Buckner DeFord

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