Monday, May 18, 2015

We Remember

Memorial Day is May 25th, a week from today. While it's the unofficial start of the summer season, it is actually a U.S. federal holiday set aside each year to pay respect to America's servicemen and women whom died while preserving our freedoms. While I enjoy the parades, family gatherings, and barbecues, the day is also personal for me. Each year I remember the members of my family whom have honorably served our nation and fellow countrymen. I am thankful for the servicemen and women such as 90 year old twin brothers, Bill and Lloyd Rupp. They joined the United States Marine Corps the day following their high school graduation in 1942. In November of that year, they left together by train from Union Station in downtown St. Louis destined for Marine Corp Base Camp in San Diego, California. The train made a routine stop at Wabash Delmar Station. Their family home on Nina Place was in view from the train station. The twins could see their mom and dad standing in the bedroom they shared and both were crying. At that moment, Bill and Lloyd wondered if they would ever see them again. The twins completed boot camp together, but due to the military policies brought about by the deaths of the five Sullivan brothers the twins were then separated. During World War II, Lloyd served in the Philippines and later in China while Bill was sent to the South Pacific and Midway Island. Remarkably they both survived the war and safely returned to the States. A few months past, the St. Louis Blues, of the National Hockey League honored these two veterans for their service to our country. The ovation was rousing and the 90 year old twin brothers were clearly overwhelmed. Definitely a well deserved tribute to these exemplary soldiers.

Following an injury and subsequent craniotomy for a subdural hematoma this past winter, Bill and his wife were moved to an assisted living home, The Bridge at Florissant. It was a difficult transition for the peppy and fiercely independent Marine. Although still active in his local community government and veteran affairs, Bill decided to continue his work on behalf of veterans in his new place of residence. On that note, this faithful Marine planned a Memorial Day event for the residents of The Bridge. He arranged for speakers from several branches of the armed forces to address the residents and their guests. Rear Admiral John Zerr represented the U.S. Navy, Lt. Col. Ron Neubauer spoke on behalf of the U.S. Marine Corps, 1st Lt. George Newell represented the U.S. Army, and Col. Bob Leeker, U.S. Air Force also addressed the audience. Each speaker eloquently shared their personal stories entwined with their interpretation of the real meaning of Memorial Day. Everyone in the room was moved including the younger men and women in attendance. The eyes of the Director of the facility welled with tears as she recalled her own father’s service during the Viet Nam conflict. Upon hearing the stories of the speakers and residents, tears even flowed from the eyes of those much younger whom have no personal connection to the military.  Everyone in attendance clearly felt moved by the ceremony.

The singing of our National Anthem and God Bless America was led by Katharine Lawton Brown and everyone in attendance joined in chorus. Medals of Recognition were presented to residents of The Bridge at Florissant whom had served in the military services of our country. The American Flag was then lowered in honor of those service members whom gave the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our Nation’s principles and freedoms. A U.S. Marine Corp League bugler played Taps during the lowering of the flag. A reception for Veteran honorees, residents, and guests was held immediately following the ceremony.  It was an emotional event and everyone was touched by the service. Several widows were present and shared stories and family pictures of their beloved husbands in their military dress. Others present spoke of sons and daughters whom had served their country and were no longer with us. Pride and appreciation resounded throughout The Bridge that day.

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery
Saint Louis, Missouri

The ceremony at The Bridge was my first Memorial Day event this year.  Sunday I will help decorate the graves of family members interred at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. That day the local Boy Scouts will also place an American flag on each of the 190,000 graves at the Barracks. It is truly a site to behold. Monday is actually Memorial Day and ceremonies will be held in various locations throughout the country. Please consider attending one of these events. More importantly, I sincerely hope everyone sets aside a few moments to remember and also educate our children on the importance of this special day. So as the saying goes "Freedom is not free".... everyone at Zoey's Attic sends our thanks to all past and present service members and their families for defending our personal freedoms. Enjoy Memorial Day!

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