Remembering the Dead
This week my blog is being taken over by Jessica Charles. This from Jessica: I am Corporal Joshua Alexander Harton’s Big Sister. I am his sister and I protected him his whole life. That is until September 18th, 2010 when a bullet from Taliban’s rifle went through his neck, cutting his carotid artery, moving through his torso and destroying organs and finally leaving his body at the left hip and shattering his Kevlar armor. I am Josh’s sister and I need you to know that my little brother is dead and my epic life will never be the same again.
Today, my children and I went to the cemetery. There we met Veteran’s who were collecting old worn flags and replacing them with new ones on the graves of their fallen comrades. It was raining, the cemetery was old, the tombstones were often broken, illegible or were often a piece of flagstone with a flag marker next to it. My son had more fun then he has had all week.
Nicky sang to himself a little ditty, “American Flag, AAaamerican FLLLLAAAAGS!”. He waved Old Glory and brought the battered and tattered flags to me and I carried them in the stroller. We reported the names to a Vietnam Marine Veteran who checked the known names off a list. My daughter cooed and smiled at the old Veteran’s and tried to slurp rain water out of her stroller.
I enjoyed watching my kids being happy. I talked to Nicky about some of the names we read. One man had been a bugler, some in Korea like my grandfather, others in Vietnam like my father in law. There were many from the Civil War. There were many names we couldn’t read, whose head stones were broken and whose families no longer cared for the grave, for whatever reason.
But there were Veterans, walking up and down in the rain and taking down old flags, replacing with new ones and checking off names. No one left behind.
They asked me why I was there, I told them who I was: A Gold Star Sister. That answered that, and they thanked me for coming and bringing my children. I thanked them because they served my country before I was born.
But that didn’t really answer why I was there. I was there because one day, I hope that someone will still put a flag on my brother’s grave. One day I hope someone checks his name to make sure it is getting the honor he is due. I want someone to look at his date of birth and his date of death and do the math. To realize he died just short of turning 24 years old and he did so for his country.
Graves were surrounded by family members, and one day I will die and join my brother. And when I am gone who will bring a broom and dust of his grave, leave a stone to show someone still cared enough to visit and of course, to place a flag by his name? Will there be a an old soldier? One who fought long ago who comes by once a year to check on his brothers and sisters?
There will be someone, and maybe it will be a soldier, or maybe a soldier’s sister, who is afraid her brother will also be disregarded. Maybe a hundred years ago, a sister tucked her brother into the ground and hoped he would never be forgotten.
I will not forget, and I will teach my children the importance of remember the dead.