On this Memorial Day, I think of my Dad. When I was merely a twinkle in my mother's eye, he was a Staff Sergeant in the 274th Army Air Force Base Unit. He served during World War II, but as the story goes (that he enjoyed telling so much) the only injury he suffered was walking into the propeller of a plane which thankfully, was not moving at the time. Later on, my Dad served in the Air Force Reserves and attained the rank of Major. When he passed away in 1992, the local VFW attended the wake and rendered Military Funeral Honors. I'm not sure I fully appreciated the meaning of this ceremony at the time. In fact, I'm sure I did not. And the truth is that I have not thought much about it much in the past 20 years since his death. But I thought about it this weekend after stumbling into a movie on HBO, called Taking Chance.
Based on a true story, Taking Chance (2009) is the story of a desk-bound Marine colonel who at some point in his career made the decision to opt for a tour of duty in a cubicle in Quantico. He's feeling too removed from the war and from the casualties of battle, and questions the comfortable choices he's made in his career. As a result, the colonel (played by Kevin Bacon) makes the decision to volunteer to act as a military escort to the remains of a fallen soldier, Chance Phelps.
Kevin Bacon is spectacular as the colonel who begins his journey with good intentions but who gains so much more during his service as a military escort. The movie is touching and moving and above all, honorable. More than just showing a tradition that I had no idea existed, it made me feel proud to be an American and proud to know that this is how we treat our fallen heroes. I will never again see a member of the uniformed services in an airport and not wonder whether or not they are on a similar mission. And I will never again think of the unexpected ceremony at my Dad's funeral in quite the same way.
So on this Memorial Day, put down the hot dogs and wait until you watch this movie to go back for seconds on the potato salad. And while you're at it, feel lucky and proud and grateful, whatever your political views, that we have men and women in the armed services who give so much. Let us honor them all.