Memorial Day is not Veteran’s Day. The two often seemed to be co-mingled, one at the beginning of Summer, the other at the beginning of Winter. A day off from work (hopefully), a flag to put out, a veteran to be thanked. Good intentions all, but there is one difference.
On Memorial Day, the Veterans you thank cannot say you’re welcome. Memorial Day is for those who have given all.
I am fortunate enough to be a Graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Class of 1994. I am also lucky enough to have served and returned. To date – and to the the best of my count, 17 of my classmates have not. I fear that number is higher – it’s been a number of years since I last visited Memorial Hall.
They made their ultimate sacrifice in a variety of ways. Some fell, of course, in Iraq and Afghanistan. For others, it was an otherwise ordinary day in the Navy. All Quiet on The Western Front, if you will. Some were just trying to get home from a football game. Out of respect for the privacy of their families I won’t list their names here, but they are more than just names on a memorial. They are my fencing team classmates. They suffered with me through Aerospace Engineering classes or Division Officer School together. I spent 4 years together by the Bay with them.
This Memorial Day is more poignant than most, for twenty years ago we were commissioned. Our time at the Academy was at – for many – a joyous end, and we would soon held out to start our service and our lives. It was the last time, this side of heaven, that all of us would be gathered together.
We didn’t know what awaited us out there in the Fleet. We didn’t know we would stand a lonely watch over far away stations while our Country enjoyed one of it’s biggest economic booms in history. We didn’t know we would miss ten Thanksgivings in a row. We didn’t know Iraq and Afghanistan were waiting. We didn’t know about 9/11.
We didn’t know the good things that were coming either. Qualifying as a SWO, a Naval Aviator, a Submariner. The immense pride of leading Marines. The birth of a child. Starting a family. Conducting a perfect unrep approach or carrier landing. The pride and joy of coming home from a deployment. Graduating from Law School. Taking command of a warship. The big things and the little things that changed our world.
If you follow wine, you know something of the concept of terroir. Like many things wine, it comes, of course, from the French. It’s the idea that a wine is-or at least, should be – shaped by the land, the environment and, yes, the people that grow it. In essence, that a wine should reflect where and when it comes from.
Which brings us back to Memorial Day. The terroir of our wines here at Dion reflect me and my family – and we have been profoundly influenced by my fallen classmates and all servicemen and women. I do not know-yet- if what you do on Earth echoes in Eternity. I do know that their sacrifice echoes in my life and our wine. Our County – this vineyard – my family – myself – would not be here without them.
To all those that have sacrificed all, and especially to my Classmates: You are not forgotten. Thank you.