I was going to write a post about this weekend but the following post popped up in my Facebook feed from something I wrote a couple years back and really couldn’t think of anything better to say.
For most today is a three day weekend. A time to cook out with friends and family. Or go shopping. The stores don’t even close early for the day anymore. If we’re not careful we can lose the meaning of the day. But if we hold on to it, if we remember what this day is for, we can keep the truth of the day alive.
Memorial Day is a day for us to remember what the price of freedom is. It should be a day when we forget we’re a Democrat or a Republican and remember that we’re Americans. It’s a day when we remember the blood that was shed for us. It should be a day when we remember the sweat and tears that was given to protect us. It’s a day when we should remember the fallen but also when we should remember all the men and women that spent a lifetime wearing the uniform and answering that call to a higher good.
It’s a day when I remember two in particular. The first is my Dad. My Dad passed away a few years back. He was safely retired from the Navy for over a decade when the cancer from his pack a day habit finally caught up with him, even though he had finally beaten his addiction to cigarettes. He retired from the U.S. Navy proudly as a Master Chief.
The military is not an easy life. The pay isn’t great and the hours are worse than just about any other job. I remember growing up my Dad having to work extra jobs to help pay the bills. But he loved the job and went where assigned. When he retired he was lost at first, going into civilian life was like entering into another world for him. But he managed and the last years of his life he was able to spend it happy with my Mom in retirement. I don’t think he was ever happier.
The second person I remember wasn’t so lucky. I find as I get older I don’t make friends as easily as I did when younger so the ones I made those many years ago mean so much more to me. Two of them were Jason and Claire. Over twenty years ago their first son was born, Jason Hill Estopinal. I was a young man, not really much more than a boy, but they made sure that I was going to be comfortable around their new baby. I remember not long after Claire was home from the hospital and visiting when she basically pushed JJ in my arms to hold. I wasn’t used to holding a baby, but I soon learned how to. Over the next few years when I would visit Jason and Claire I would find myself spending time with JJ. (I know Jason said recently that only his Mom got away with calling him JJ, but as a boy he was always JJ and that’s how I’ll always remember him.) I remember one back yard party that they had and while all the adults were standing around talking I was running around the yard with a three or four year old JJ.
I never had the pleasure of knowing the adult JJ. Jason and Claire moved to Atlanta around JJ’s fifth birthday. At first I would visit yearly, but over time the visits became fewer and I never realized I hadn’t seen them in years. I heard JJ joined the Marines. Than on my lunch hour I opened an email on my phone and see an article saying that a young man from Georgia was been killed overseas. As I read the article I realized how much I still loved that family and found myself in tears.
JJ never got the chance to grow up and retire from the military like my Dad. He never got the chance to marry and have children and see them grow up. He never got the chance to get up early in the morning and go sit on the porch with a cup of tea and realize how wonderful his life had been.
On this day I pay tribute to two heroes.