Old Guard sets out flags Funeral for Charles Keating, Coronado, CA
Memorial Day was different for me this year. As a USO volunteer, I was invited to attend a memorial mass for decorated Navy SEAL Charles Keating, IV. There are lots of activities I could have chosen to spend this day doing. Things I’ve done in years past: either march in or attend a parade, join friends for a barbeque, visit a cemetery or attend Memorial Day Observances at the local national cemetery, or even stay home and mow the lawn, nap in my hammock or walk down to the beach. But supporting the family of this sailor who had given his life for the ideals I believe in seemed more fitting.
It was a humbling experience. Listening to his fellow SEALs, his parents, his friends, hearing snippets of letters he’d written to his siblings that began with “If you are reading this, I didn’t make it home…” All of it brought the enormity of this loss into clear and heartbreaking focus. Charlie was one of the thousands of men and women who write that blank check to the US for service up to and including their lives. His parents and his siblings are just one of the far too many gold star families who have had to bury a son, or a daughter, or a husband or a wife, or a father or mother. Their loss was personal and for that moment in time, it became personal for me as well. This is what Memorial Day is all about. Honoring all those who have fallen in service to our country, standing up for the ideals we all profess to believe in, laying down their lives to save those of their fellow warriors.
Later, as I watched the news on TV, a man was interviewing random people on the street asking what they thought Memorial Day was all about. I was appalled at the ignorance. So many people with no idea, no sense of anything beyond themselves. Has this nation of takers become so selfish and self-centered that we can’t even spend a moment in prayer or silence to remember those who sacrificed so much for our freedom to live life the way we wish? Or even be aware that the day they get off from work has a meaning beyond their small world? I doubt there was a single American soul who did not know or celebrate this day after the end of WWII. There was certainly plenty of awareness that we were at war, whether you agreed with it or not during the Vietnam era. What has changed? Did the ending of the draft mean that we no longer need to be concerned with the defense of freedom or the price that others pay to secure it? Or is this just another facet of the sickness that has led to random acts of killing, riots and looting masked as protests, lack of respect for life, and the breakdown of our moral society? If so, I weep for this country’s future.
At sundown last night, I took down my flag – humbled by my choice of how to spend my day and utterly saddened that for so many, the day meant nothing at all. In all the wars Americans have fought in the name of freedom, more than 1 million, 264 thousand men and women have sacrificed their lives. That should stand for something for every single American.
RIP, Charlie Keating – and all the brothers and sisters who went before you. God Bless.