Paula Salky: The meaning of Memorial Day

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What are you doing on Monday? The kids are out of school! Retail stores have everything on sale! Maybe you’re out camping! It’s a holiday, right?

If you didn’t know, Monday is Memorial Day.

I’ve casually asked people what Memorial Day was about and it was shocking how many people did not know. Most of us are so detached from the wars and the men and women who fight and serve our country. So let me tell you. Let me give you a connection. Pretend your brother, son, father, mother, sister or daughter has joined the military. They complete boot camp and look so sharp in their uniform and they are so proud of their accomplishment and have grown so much. And you are so proud. They have made a huge commitment to our country and you have watched them mature and evolve into a dedicated young man or woman.

Now pretend that they have been sent to a far-off land. Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan. Every time you read the news you are afraid to read about an ambush, suicide bomber, sniper or any other incident involving our Marines and soldiers. You can’t breathe normally until you know your beloved one is home safe and sound.

And then one day, you come home from work and see a plain white van outside your home. Or maybe you are home and the doorbell rings. You answer the door and you see two military members at your doorstep. It’s the moment you’ve dreaded.

“We regret to inform you that your son or daughter was killed ...”

Time stops, the room spins, you are no longer able to grasp these words and an immediate sense of sadness and loss raptures your entire body. You attend the funeral. The flag is folded, “Taps” is played and you are forever different. Life has new meaning, and it’s a painful loss.

Your son, daughter, father, mother, sister or brother is now a statistic of our military — another brave man or woman who has died serving our country. Many years ago when there was a draft, we were all connected in some way to a tragic loss. Today, with military service being a choice, so many have of us have no idea what this day is about. I know all too well.

My brother, Capt. Robert M. Secher, USMC, was the 2,502nd person killed in Iraq. According to the “Faces of the Fallen” on www.wash

ingtonpost.com, 6,648 U.S. members have died serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. I won’t be able to visit Robert’s grave in the West Tennessee Veteran’s Cemetery this Memorial Day, but I will be able to go and remember and honor our veterans in our very own cemetery here in Steamboat Springs.

I ask you all to take some time Monday and truly recognize what this day is all about for our country. The very least you can do is attend the beautiful Memorial Day service at 11 a.m. at Steamboat Springs Cemetery. Take your family and friends. The service lasts an hour. Walk around the cemetery and look at the headstones of the men and women who served our country. You will be able to recognize them by the American flags flying on their grave. You will see markers with engravings from the Spanish-American War to the Vietnam War. It’s such an impressive and meaningful ceremony, and you will recognize many members of our community in their military uniforms who are there to honor our veterans in the cemetery. It is their duty to remember, and it is our duty to remember. Let’s not forget this important role of ours as Americans to show up. Take a moment this Monday to walk up the hill and remember our men and women and reconnect to who we are as Americans. It is the very least we can do. I’ll see you there.

Paula Salky’s brother, Robert Secher, was killed by a sniper while on a mission in Hit, Iraq, on Oct. 6, 2006. He was a captain in the United States Marine Corps.

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