Memorial Day is one of my favorites

(Editor’s note: Well, I still haven’t come up with a good name for this column, so you’ll have to bear with me for another week or two. I started writing this column because of what was on my mind and before I knew it, bam’too many words. I hate it when that happens. Speaking from experience, when a news story or any story for that matter gets too wordy and is too long, I usually end up skimming it and missing half of the important details. I hope that the topic of this column will entice you to read it carefully and reflect upon the meaning I am trying to convey. My apologies in advance if it is too long.’JS) I must admit that I am a big fan of holidays. Christmas is a favorite for me partly because I am such a cold weather freak and I like that time of year. My wife and many of my close friends know that if I had my druthers, I would be snowed in on a mountain in Colorado with a ton of wildlife surrounding me. I guess a big part of my love for cooler weather and snow stems from my childhood days of sledding down the steep hills of Manassas Battlefield Park near my home in Virginia. For an eight-year-old boy, nothing could be better. Six inches of fresh snow on the ground, school cancelled, mom and dad both home and the four of us kids begging to head to the hills. We loaded up a couple of sleds, an aluminum disc and strapped the toboggan on the top of the car and headed for the steepest, longest hills in the area. (For those of you Texans who have never had the experience, flying down a snow-covered hill on a piece of wood with a curved up front with your family lined up in a row behind you is an experience everyone should have.) It must have been a popular thing to do because I remember lots of other families doing the same thing. I digress’holidays. Growing up on the East Coast less than three hours drive from some of the most historically significant places in the history of these United States, I became sort of a Civil War and Revolutionary War buff. Gettysburg, Harper’s Ferry, Manassas, Bull Run’all places I have visited on more than one occasion. WWII was also a favorite. As a youngster, I also took a fancy to building WWII model airplanes and reenacting air battles with the help of my big brother, Todd. He fancied the German and Japanese aircraft, but nothing could top my Corsair, P-51 Mustang or P-40 Warhawk. We played for hours building and then flying those little planes around our house, sound effects and all. I guess I can credit my father for getting me hooked on WWII history. I will always treasure the memories of being tucked under my dad’s arm, sitting on the couch, watching The Big Red One and The Dirty Dozen, two of his personal favorites. I still love to watch just about any war movie, and it is with great anticipation that I await the opening of the new movie Pearl Harbor that opens on Memorial Day. My wife, unfortunately, doesn’t share my passion for war movies. Give her a sappy, emotional love story, and she is good to go. Now that I am a grown adult, (the fact that I am losing more and more hair off of my head makes me think I am an adult) I often think I should go back and retake some of those grade school history classes to re-learn all of the interesting facts and revisit the places of historical significance I have been fortunate enough to see in my short lifetime. You see, back when I had the time and lived in the virtual birthplace the nation, I lacked the maturity and knowledge of what to appreciate. So until I get off my duff and start reading more history books, don’t give me any history quizzes. H The words and actions of an incredibly wise man are permanently ingrained in my mind. One of several lessons he taught me, I still do my best to adhere to and hope to instill in my children’respect for your elders. He was a strict old man, old to me at least. As a youngster it always seemed as if when he came to visit, he was on a mission to find fault with whatever I did. Looking back now, I see he was simply doing his part in moulding me into the person I am today. Thanks, grandpa. The man didn’t stop at teaching me respect for my elders. Things like not wearing your hat at the dinner table, saying ‘Good Morning’ to people when you see them at the start of the day, saying ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir’ and removing my hat upon entering a building. Yes, they may be old school, but those values are quickly becoming history themselves in today’s society. The man who tried so hard to make sure we got a proper education in etiquette and manners was none other than my mom’s dad. Now don’t get me wrong, my parents did the same things he did in the teaching department, but there was something different when it came from Grandpa New. Both of my grandfathers served their country in the Armed Services. My dad’s dad was a World War I aviator. As a matter of fact, at this very moment, I have his actual uniform in my truck to take to the cleaners before I donate it to the local museum for display in their military exhibit. My mom’s dad served, if I remember correctly, on a submarine in the U.S. Navy in WWII. Memorial Day is next Monday, and it is always around this time of year when I think about the men and women who have given so much of their life so I could be here writing this column. Since moving to Brady, I have been introduced to another chapter in history’the veterans in this county who are living history, not just pages in a book. I have seen and read brief accounts of these remarkable persons and have heard stories from others about who did what in what war. Bill Roberts came into my office one day a little over a year ago with an old photo of some young guys in uniform lined up on a beach posing for a photo. After an hour of visiting or so, I came away with a story about Mr. Roberts of his days on Saipan, an island in the South Pacific, during the final weeks of WWII. He told me about some of the things he witnessed and took part in as a soldier in the weeks just before the U.S. dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. In all of the chaos and malay of wartime, he, a lone Baylor graduate, and a group of Texas A&M graduates gathered together on that tiny island on April 21 for Muster to honor lost friends and comrades. That photo was a slice of history which I was privileged to see. I could go on for hours about the feelings I get when I drive down Memory Lane or when I see the students at Brady High School put on a Veteran’s Day program to honor the veterans of the county. If there is one thing you should do when it comes to holidays, move Memorial Day closer to the top of your list of favorites. Christmas is first for obvious reasons. Moms’ and dads’ days are hard to beat too. But just think, these walking bits of history deserve more honor and recognition than they will ever receive. Do them all a favor and let them know you appreciate them. To each of you veterans, rest assured that my children will learn to respect their elders and that history and the part each of you played will always command respect from those of us who are lucky to have followed in your footsteps. ‘JS

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