Our family just got back from spending Memorial Day in my hometown of Millersburg, PA. It was a wonderful day, reminiscent of childhood Memorial Days, when there was always some kind of ceremony on the town square, followed by a parade. Those celebrations were never “fun” for me as a child, and I can recall being “bored,” just as my younger son was today. However, even as a child, I always understood that there was a deeper purpose to those ceremonies than mere entertainment, something that I appreciate more now than I did when I was younger.
Today’s celebration was even more meaningful than usual for me. Today, the town commemorated the holiday by officially presenting banners honoring Millersburg veterans. These banners will be displayed throughout the town and along the riverfront. One of those banners features my father, SMSgt Glenn Daniels, who served in the Air Force from 1951-1972, including time in Korea during the Korean Conflict. I know very little about his duties and accomplishments during his time in the military; most of what I heard about was family life during those years, how my mother coped with small children while he was gone, and everyday life in the places he was stationed. I still remember after he died, finding a collection of medals he earned during his time in the Air Force. While we were able to research online the names of the awards, none of his children or grandchildren know what he actually did to earn each particular decoration.
One other part of the ceremony that I found especially meaningful was the winner of the Voice of Democracy Essay Contest reading his essay. He talked about the importance of asking veterans about their experiences and listening to their stories, so that those stories could be passed down to future generations so that those things are not forgotten. He challenged not only his generation, but all of us, to do our part in keeping these stories alive. It made me think of my own father, who shared so little of his days in the service, and it made my wonder if I’d pressed him, showed a little more interest in his story, would he have opened up?
One last thing that weighs heavy on my mind this Memorial Day is something my younger son said to me at church yesterday. At one point during the service, he leaned over to me out of the blue and said, “You know, Mom, I kind of feel like I want to join the Army when I grow up.”
Outwardly, I believe I gave a good, supportive response. I told him that’s something he needs to pray about and decide for himself when the time comes. Inwardly, as a mother, I screamed, “Nooooooo!!!!!” The thought of my son, my baby, enlisting in the military and being sent overseas to fight in wars or conflicts and possibly not coming home was just too much for me to bear at that moment. My heart cried over the possibility, and I wondered how other mothers dealt with that inward turmoil.
Still, a part of me knows that military service is in his blood. My father, uncles, an aunt, and at least one cousin have also served our country, some during wartime, and others during various skirmishes. My struggle with my son’s potential future choice is not unique; I’ve had loved ones who have likely asked those same questions. I know that when the time comes, if he chooses to follow that path in life, I’ll let him go, sending him off with the same love, support, and prayers that my grandparents, aunts, and uncles have sent their own dear ones off with.
And if he does indeed choose a life of service to his country, then one day he, too, will have a story to tell, to pass down for future generations to remember.