Memorial Day weekend isn’t just about fun

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Veterans, millions of veterans, know the meaning of this Memorial Day.  

Parents are making plans, reunions, and celebrations. Children are excited, counting the days until school is out.  

Municipalities are planning big events. Everything is in full-swing for the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend.  

Yet, outside the fun, the celebration, there remains the meaning of life as a veteran. The following words remain dear to my heart, to the soul and hearts of so many. And, yes, these are actual words read in 1968 at the services of a fallen soldier, Pfc. Scott H. Cook, my brother-in-law:

Just imagine, most of the guys in combat are 18, trying to make it to 19. The average age of the combat man is 18 1/2.  And, what a man he is.  

A pink-checked, tousle-haired, tight muscled fella who under normal circumstances would be considered by society as a half-man, half-boy, not yet dry behind the ears and a pain on the unemployment charts.

But under his circumstances, he is unmarried and without material possessions except for an old car at home and a transistor radio.

He just got out of high school, received so-so grades, went to college for a semester, dropped out to find himself and was drafted. He made no personal commitments to anyone as to not to infringe on personal independence.

He learned to drink beer because it’s the thing to do. He is a private first class, working toward a one year veteran with one year to go.

He never minded work, preferred washing his own car to cutting his father’s grass, but now he is aware of death from dawn to dusk — and longer.

He is a good speller and writes home regularly. He can break down his M-16 rifle in 30 seconds and put it back together in 29. He can describe the nomenclature of a fragmentation grenade, explain how a machine gun works and use both when the need arises. He can dig a foxhole, apply first aid to a wounded companion, march until he is told to stop and stop until he is told to march.

He has seen more suffering than he should in his short life.  He has stood among hills and valleys of death, and helped to build them.  

He has wept in private and in public and been ashamed of neither because his pals have fallen in battle, and he has come close to joining them.

He has become self sufficient. He has two pairs of fatigues, washes one and wears the other. He sometimes can’t clean his teeth but always cleans his rifle. He keeps his socks dry and his canteen full.

He can do the work of two civilians, draw the pay of half, and see ironic humor in both. He has learned to use his weapon as his hands and his hands as his weapon.

He can save a life and most assuredly take one. He, my brother, was a veteran, and would have been 20 next week.
Please remember the real meaning of the upcoming Memorial Weekend and join so many who gather to pay tribute to the fallen heroes of so many generations. And, please pray for the safety of our current troops fighting on our behalf. As of May 14, 1,846 U.S. death toll service members and three Defense Department civilians had been reported killed in the Afghanistan War.
The city of Harriman and the American Legion Post 53 (Harriman) are host to the Memorial weekend celebration and tribute, one of only a few celebrations in Tennessee on this glorious occasion. On Saturday, May 26 at 1 p.m.,  American Legion Hall Museum opens; at 4 veterans will parade from the American Legion (Harriman) to Riverfront Park, where the tribute will be held.  

Immediately following is a free concert by the RiverSharks. Thanks to many donors making funds available for the concert.

Sarah McCoin