I appreciate your sentiments thanking me today, Memorial Day, for my service. I also recognize your genuine expression of gladness wishing me “Happy Memorial Day.”
However, if my somber response is not what you expect, here’s why: Memorial Day is a solemn, if not sad, day for me. It’s a day for me to remember those whose blank checks–made out to Uncle Sam for the amount up to including one’s life–were cashed in full.
The photo capturing GIs storming the beaches of Normandy epitomizes my feelings regarding the ultimate sacrifice made by thousands that day.
The photo and the accompanying poem, The Fallen Soldier Table, depict the impact on those back home.
The Fallen Soldier Table
The rose stands for the family with faith and love for those who serve,
They’re held with the highest respect for that’s what they deserve.
A yellow ribbon is for the loyalty waiting for those serving abroad,
As we pray that they’re watched over and kept close to God.
An inverted glass represents that the fallen can no longer toast,
They cannot be an honored guest or such a gracious host.
A lemon wedge represents the bitter loss of the fallen soldier’s life,
That causes so much pain like the sharp edge of a knife.
The salt is put in place for all the loved ones’ shedding tears,
For the soldier is no longer present to help calm our fears.
The candle stands tall for the blood that the soldier shed,
It holds a place of honor and represented in red.
The empty chair symbolizes the missing comrade who isn’t here,
Now it stands alone for the voice that we can’t here.
Jon M. Nelson
Indeed I am thankful that the blank check I wrote to Uncle Sam in 1982 was never cashed. Perhaps I am gripped by survivor’s guilt, but regardless, the focus of my attention today is on the supreme sacrifices made by those both unknown and known to me.
Today I remember and honor 1Lt Patrick Olson. In his A-10, he was assisting me and the US First Armored Division on 27 Feb 1991 in our attack on the Iraqi Republican Guard. His jet was hit by a surface to air missile. As he left Iraqi airspace headed to Saudi, my last words to him over the radio were, “I owe you a beer.” I owe him more than that. He died trying to land the crippled aircraft.
So, if I am a bit flat today, now you know. RIP Oly.