Tag Archives: remember

Waves of Memories

PepperdineUMemSunriseFlags1jpg-3376683_p9Our youngest daughter started middle school when we moved from Mississippi to Malibu in 2008 and needed certain shots to enroll in school, (make up your own jokes friends from Mississippi and California, but be nice!) so we went to a local urgent-care facility and waited. There in the waiting room I met a super-friendly Pepperdine student who was the incoming president of the College Republicans at Seaver College. He excitedly shared with me his plan to place a large American flag on the magnificent front lawn of Pepperdine University for every life lost in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. He said it was going to be awesome. I was impressed by both his initiative and enthusiasm.

He delivered. The display was such a success that Pepperdine immediately latched on to the idea, and this year marks the tenth consecutive year for the breathtaking “waves of flags” display. 

Walking among the flags is an experience in and of itself, not to mention a photographer’s dream in the Age of Instagram, but my favorite thing to do is to watch the first responders and the veterans park their fire trucks and motorcycles on the iconic Pacific Coast Highway and walk up the hill to take in the experience.  They are far more inspiring to watch than the flags themselves.

In the early years, someone had the proper idea to place flags of other nations among the American flags to represent the correct nationalities of the victims of the attacks on that fateful day. After all, the attacks were acts of aggression against the entire world. International students and guests to campus are happy to find their flag and yet sobered by the reminder of the loss that flag represents. 

We still remember that terrible day. In a year or two, incoming college students will remind us that they were not alive in the fall of 2001, but as of today the flags are still flying and those of us who remember still share our stories. 

President Abraham Lincoln predicted that the world would soon forget what he said that historic Thursday afternoon in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, but elementary school children still memorize his speech over 150 years later. Some things are simply unforgettable.

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Remember Sacrifice

I don’t like giving up dessert to improve my health. I don’t like giving up a baseball game for work. I resist giving hard-earned cash even for causes I deeply support. Heck, I don’t even like giving up a good parking space for someone who needs it worse than I do.

But to inspire positive change, sacrifice is inevitable.

On this Memorial Day, I recall presiding over numerous military funerals at Biloxi National Cemetery on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It is difficult to have fond memories surrounding death, but there is something special about a military funeral: the peaceful grounds, the perfect order of the markers, and the folding and presentation of the flag to a grieving family that pierces the hardest heart.

As officiant, my back was always turned to the twenty-one gun salute, and I never was prepared for the explosion of gunfire from the seven rifles that shattered the still, humid air. I shuddered on each of the subsequent rounds even though I knew they were coming.

The most poignant moment was the playing of Taps. Even when the family had held it together, the initial notes of that haunting melody, low, low, high . . . burst the tear duct dam every time. I never noticed if the bugler was a pimply-teenage boy or middle-age mother—the identity did not matter. The command was in the music, and the last dying note hung in the air with such rich honor that no one dared to breathe.

Honor.

Surely the cruel specter of death was not honored. Surely the hell of war was not honored. I am sure it was the tragic beauty of sacrifice that was worthy of such solemn respect and dignity.

The very name, Memorial Day, instruct us of its aim—to remember—but I prefer the negative framing—that individual souls not be forgotten.

This nation, in fact every nation has a vested interest in asking its citizenry to remember such sacrifice for a nation needs human resources to carry out its survival goal. And in our deeply divided political climate we can argue national policy that leads to war, and we do, and we should. But today, I wish we could lay that aside for a few moments and stop shopping for a new car and grilling hot dogs long enough to remember and honor sacrifice.

On another day it might be for the firefighter who rushed upstairs while the World Trade Center collapsed. On another day it might be the police officer who kisses her husband goodbye every morning knowing that her chosen profession does not guarantee an evening safe at home. On another day it might be the activist who stands up against abusive power knowing that such a stand may very well leave him a victim of that very power.

But today, it is the soldier on the battlefield willing to die for a greater cause than self.

The aptly-named ultimate sacrifice should not be forgotten, for it is that very willingness to give up all for the good of another that is the heart of our collective desire for a better world.

For the 148th consecutive year at Gettysburg, and at locations all across the nation, the bugler takes her position . . .

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Possibly of interest:

  • The original lyrics of Taps, by Horace Lorenzo Trim:
    Day is done, gone the sun
    From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
    All is well, safely rest
    God is nigh.

    Fading light dims the sight
    And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
    From afar, drawing near
    Falls the night.

    Thanks and praise for our days
    Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
    As we go, this we know
    God is nigh.

  • Decoration Day by Charles Ives (performed by the San Francisco Symphony under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas).  Decoration Day was the original name of Memorial Day.