Memorial Day can bring to one’s memory an assortment of images, positive and negative. I love the parades honoring those who have served in the military, and I am touched by the services held at military cemeteries to honor the memory of those who have given their lives for our country.
Yesterday reminded me of a young man named Dave who surprised me with a visit several years ago. I can still see him standing so tall in the doorway of my classroom, a room he had left for the last time over five years previously as an eighth grader finally graduating and moving into high school. Where once he had stood a few inches taller than me, he was now at least a foot taller than me. He interrupted my class that day with a simple greeting, “Hi, Mrs. Flass! I came back to see you!” He was dressed in his Marine uniform, so crisp and neat, and was smiling warmly at me.
I remember how he had once sat in the back of the room and was a struggling student. It wasn’t that he couldn’t do the work. He did try. But he lacked confidence in himself and that often held him back. On that day in spring, he came into the room and gave me a big hug. “I just wanted to thank you,” he said, ” for believing in me and pushing me through middle school. I love the military.” He was on leave from his tour in Iraq and was looking forward to returning to combat. After that brief visit, he turned away and headed down the hallway. It was hard to tell which one of us felt the greater pride at that moment.
His visit to me that day was a wonderful gift. None of us can truly know when or how we touch the lives of others. We just need to look for ways to support and encourage those we care about because in return we may find that they are out there serving our country, saving lives, and finding success within themselves. It doesn’t seem right to honor them only on one day out of the year.