Monday, May 31, 2010

Honoring Our Heroes on Memorial Day

In a new series of blogs titled "My Army Life," Army spouse Traci Cook shares with us some of the day-to-day happenings of living the Army life.

In many ways, my life is much like any other wife and mother.  I take care of my two boys, get them off to school each morning, and volunteer at their school.  I love my husband, enjoy the time we can spend together, and appreciate his hard work to give his family a good life. 

There are some differences, though, for a military spouse.  When we say 'goodbye,' it's not for a week-long business trip, it could be for a month-long training rotation in California or Louisiana ... or for a year-long combat deployment.  When my husband is away "on business," he is living a dangerous life. 

This was all brought home again for me this weekend as we remembered our fallen on Memorial Day.  Hubby and I had discussed ways to make sure our sons (ages ten and six) were cognizant of the heroes who have gone before us to pave the way for the freedom we now enjoy ... but weren't too disturbed by the somber reality of a career in the Army.  We decided that a tour of the 1st Cavalry museum on Fort Hood and a visit to the memorial there would be just what we needed.

We visited the museum first, reading lots of great stories in the proud history of the 1st Cavalry Division.  The boys enjoyed seeing the uniforms of the past and reading the stories of Soldiers in years past.  Their favorite quote was a replica of a memo sent by General Normal Schwarzkopf during Desert Storm that simply read, "Send in the First Team. Destroy the Republican Guard. Let's go home."

They enjoyed seeing the photos and asked their dad lots of questions about living in Iraq, the Iraqi people, and what our Army is accomplishing there.  The displays and photos really helped this come to life for them.  Another favorite display was a photo montage of Soldiers living in Iraq.  Our youngest son announced that his favorite photo was one of a group of Soldiers playing cards at night.  The unique part of the photo?  They were using glowing green 'chem lights' to see the cards!  He thought that was very resourceful of the Soldiers to do.

We also talked with the boys about honoring the memory of those who fought and died in service to our country and walked through the "Medal of Honor" hall in the museum.  Reading the heroic acts by so many was an amazing thing.  It wasn't long before our oldest noticed that most of the plaques read "Posthumous Award" and realized that most of these Soldiers were killed in a combat situation.  They left this room commenting on how brave our Soldiers are.

After the museum, we visited the 1st Cavalry Division memorial.  The memorial is a beautiful display near the division headquarters that honors the fallen Soldiers from Operation Iraqi Freedom.  (A complete description can be found at the 1st Cavalry Division Memorial Page.) 

We explained to the boys that the names on the memorial were listed in order by date.  As we reviewed the names, we asked them to select five names each and write them down on post-it note papers we had given them.  We discussed the names and decided that these would be the main Families that we would keep in our thoughts and prayers.  The boys placed these post-it notes in their rooms so they could remember these Families each night before bed.

As we continued to walk around the memorial walls, we noticed a young couple reading through names on a recent addition to the the most current wall.  The man was obviously a Soldier, the woman a girlfriend or young wife.  As they read, they would touch each engraved name and seemed to be sharing memories of that person with each other.  They stopped at one name and spent some quiet time there, and I couldn't help but photograph the moment.  Their grief was apparent and I took a moment to grieve with them for this lost friend, a US Army Soldier who did not make it home.

Our sons were appropriately serious about their time here and commented on the names they read and the items they saw at the foot of each wall..  We noted these items, left behind by loved ones who had visited the site earlier in the day.  Flowers, unit crests and insignia, and even chalk-drawn notes on the sidewalk were apparent at each wall.  One Soldier even left a bottle of beer at the foot of the wall containing the name of his battle buddy, a sight that  made the entire visit that much more real to all of us.  This Soldier had been someone's good friend, a buddy, somebody to hang out with and have a drink with ... not just a name etched on a wall.

As we rounded the last wall, we came across a smaller wall that had part of the map and missions of the most recent deployment.  My husband was able to spend a few minutes with our boys, explaining where he had lived, traveled, and worked for a year.  The boys had some questions for their dad and were genuinely interested in where he had lived for that deployment.  At the end of the day, this had been a great trip for us, to remind us of all those who have fought so bravely and given so much, to understand more fully what it is that our Soldier does each day, and to ensure that our heroes ... past and present ... will never be forgotten.


Army Well-Being said...

We appreciate our guest blogger, Traci Cook, for sharing her Memorial Day on Fort Hood, Texas. Please feel free to add your own comment here or share your story of honoring our Soldier heroes.

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