Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day in Alaska

Ours is a family rich in military tradition. Yukon's father was a submariner in WWII and beyond, and Wolf's paternal grandfather was not only a Chief in the Navy, he was also a prisoner of war in the famous (and notorious) Burma/Thailand area. Yukon works hard every day to enhance the lives of veterans in Alaska. Both sons have grown up appreciating and embracing the difficult jobs of service members and their families sacrificing everything, sometimes, for the sake of their country.

As a member of the VA Healthcare System in Anchorage, Yukon was expected to attend the annual Memorial Day ceremonies at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. A beautiful location for a final resting place of men and women of our armed forces, the Fort Richardson National Cemetery was sunny and warm today, with a light breeze just right for setting our American and Alaska flags to fluttering.

The last time we attended as a family Bear was but a preschooler and found the music just fine but the speeches, not. This year, however, his attention span and empathy for other people had matured. The photos above show just how powerfully he was affected by today's events.

One family had just buried a son not ten days earlier, and had come bravely to the ceremony. Bear watched solemnly as mother, little brothers, and girlfriend sobbed at his freshly placed headstone, flowers trembling in their hands.

When the 21-gun salute was announced, he asked why they fired off guns when soldiers died. Yukon explained it was a respectful way of sending a soldier off to heaven. I watched widows, some in their late 80's, shudder as they heard the shots, bowing their heads with remembrance of their own, personal link with such a salute, and I was amazed at their fortitude.

Bear got it. He held his ball cap over his heart as Taps wafted, in echo, across the wide expanse of Alaskan acreage, lilting and lifting and eventually fading away into the warm, breezy afternoon.

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