Memorial Day - a Soldier's remembrance
Photo of Staff Sgt. Mike Alberts, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs, for use with commentary.

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - As a boy, I stood at the foot of a wooden ladder at sunrise as my dad, with a farmer's weathered hands, hung an American flag from the corner of our shingled roof. It was just another early Memorial Day morning in Southern California.

So consistent was this annual May event that now, looking back over the years, I have no varied or more elaborate recollection. There was no fanfare or ceremony to it. In my mind's eye, I'm always the small boy. My dad is always strong and resolute in his movements. The flag, faded and removed only twice a year from its home in the family garage, always hung silent.

Ritual, if truly consistent over time, has a way of melding memories into a single snapshot image.
Back then, now a quarter century ago, I hardly understood the significance of my dad's patriotic routine, being repeated countless times at countless homes around the country every May. I would learn, years later, that three uncles -- my Dad's older brothers - each served in the Army during World War II. Two of the three experienced combat - one in the Philippines, and other areas of Southeast Asia, and the other over the skies of Western Europe.

World War II was the deadliest military conflict in modern history. Though estimates vary somewhat, no fewer than 40 million people were killed. Among those were more than 400,000 American servicemembers who lost their lives in service to our country. I'm sure both Uncle Bernard and Uncle Francis, now deceased, lost friends.

My Dad's war was Korea. As an 18 year-old sailor, he served ship duty. By July 1953, the "police action," as it was officially referred to, owing to a lack of a declaration of war by the U.S. Congress, concluded. More than 30,000 of my Dad's comrades-in-arms sacrificed their lives in service to our country over that four-year span.

As a man, my awareness of my Family's service and sacrifice expanded. So too did my appreciation of my dad's commitment to fly our American flag each Memorial Day. He flew, and continues to fly, our flag yearly for the same, simple reason. The same reason Union Army Gen. John A. Logan offered when he instituted the holiday (then known as Decoration Day) after the Civil War back on May 30, 1868 - to simply remember and honor those brave Americans who served, sacrificed and died in service to our great nation.

More than 50 years after my dad's naval service ended, mine began. Iraq and Afghanistan are now my generation's wars. U.S. servicemember casualties in Iraq are approaching 4,400. In Afghanistan, more than 1,000 U.S. servicemembers have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Now on my second combat tour to Iraq and as Memorial Day approaches, I will remember friends like Staff Sgt. Daniel Isshak killed near Tikrit, Iraq, October 3, 2006, and Spc. Farid Elazzouzi killed near Kirkuk, Iraq, June 14, 2007.

As an American, Soldier and Veteran, Dan and Farid have earned my attention, respect and a solemn moment of silent reflection for their sacrifice. My private memories of both friends are frozen in time like that of my dad hanging our flag every Memorial Day morning.

But, it's not just Dan and Farid who I will quietly honor and reflect on this Memorial Day. I will also remember the hundreds of thousands of servicemembers who pledged themselves to a cause and died in service to the United States of America. My private moment of silence is also without fanfare or ceremony, and will always be my simple, sacred Memorial Day ritual.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16