Opinion: Even separated, we are united
This span of years on planet Earth defines its people through the lifetimes shared with others. Memorial Day in this year of 2020 shines light upon the struggle to make those lifetimes count for something good.
America’s soldiers have lived and died at the forefront of that struggle. They did not begin the conflicts in which they were called to serve, but rather, answered the call on our behalf. They lie at rest, some here in the valley that was their home and others on land and seas around the world. Today, we pause in silence to remember them.
Listening, we can hear our soldiers speak, their voices echoing through generations. We can touch that place within ourselves that belongs to them. The tradition of this day offers a comforting reassurance in a way to reach beyond this odd confinement of the present and touch our fellow Americans.
Here in Steamboat Springs, veterans have led the community in annual remembrance since 1922. This year, there will be no standing together along the parade ground’s edges. Even so, at the cemetery on the hill, the colors will be lowered to half mast and the smaller flags of red, white and blue will mark 300 graves.
Though no riderless horse carries the emptiness of the past and no hoof beats reverberate through memory of what has been, nevertheless, the living will recognize the dead. Parents will salute their sons and daughters; children will learn of parents and grandparents who fought for them.
The heroes who rest in cemeteries all over our country would be the first to speak of the obligation that accompanies the privilege of being an American. Within the soundless stillness of this day, all of us can feel the strength of men and women who continue to stand guard in a war that began on Sept. 11, 2001.
This strange time of self-isolation offers the opportunity to gain some understanding of what has been accomplished to make possible the last 75 years of increasing prosperity.
In that place, where we keep the past, our soldiers have left behind a part of themselves. It lies deep within each of us, an unremovable emptiness that enlarges with every physical departure of someone we care about. We are on the verge of feeling that shifting movement into a new and wider expanse, a farther horizon. Our veterans show us the way.
It is what we have been experiencing in our small households for the last several weeks, figuring out how to get along under a new set of rules. In close quarters, each family member’s needs vie for attention at the expense of another’s. Private space comes at a premium paid to others.
Actually, our households offer a way to see more of ourselves, much like looking into a mirror reflection of another mirror. Rather than see only our own eyes looking back at us, we can find new meaning in the evidence of being only part of what is around us. Could this brief isolation be the magic that brings us back together as a nation?
One of our older local veterans has voiced what remains essential to that possibility, his words capturing what the years have taught. “In the end,” he says, “all we are trying to do is create something good about ourselves, know that we have been something to somebody else. We have to live with ourselves and what we have become.”
Memorial Day in this year of 2020 shines a light upon this moment in time. The past has changed into the future. United, these 50 states of America can lead the way into something good.
Soldiers know. We learn slowly in peace what they find overnight in war. Life is to be cherished. Today is Memorial Day. We remember.
Harriet Freiberger has lived in the Elk River Valley since 1982.
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