Paula Salky: A day to remember
“We regret to inform you that Cpt. Robert Michael Secher was killed in action by a sniper’s bullet while on patrol mission in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.”
It was Oct. 8, 2006, when the white government van pulled up in front of my parent’s house. Our lives dramatically changed on that day, and even though it’s been more than 10 years, I’m grateful that we have Memorial Day to gather and remember.
Why? Because in this day and age, we are more concerned with what’s going on with the Kardashians and what bathroom someone is going to use, than honoring our fallen during Memorial Day. So many people don’t know what Memorial Day is about, and we only perpetuate this by not acknowledging it in the manner it was meant to.
So here I am on my soap box, asking you to set aside an hour on Monday morning to observe the Steamboat Memorial Day ceremony (it starts at 11 a.m. at the Steamboat Springs Cemetery).
This is a good time to acknowledge your life in this country. A country where we are able to live because so many men and woman sacrificed to ensure that the things we do every day and take for granted — going to sleep, waking up, praying in the way we want, where we want, when we want, dressing the way we are comfortable, walking safely down the street — should not be compromised.
Memorial Day is the day where we can set aside our political differences and stand together to remember. Take your children to the Steamboat ceremony and walk to the different gravesites. My favorite is Harvey Adams, the Spanish American War veteran. He died in 1925, and thinking about him keeps his memory alive, along with all the others.
It was not always easy taking my children to the cemetery, but once we were there, they were awed by the changing of the guard and the representation of the different military branches. I try my best not to cry during the National Anthem, and if our anthem doesn’t get to me, Taps certainly does.
It’s not necessary to have had a military loss to understand what Memorial Day is about, but sharing my story may help you connect to why I feel I need to share the importance with you and why it’s important to not say, Happy Memorial Day.
You see, my step-brother was similar to the boys and girls who grew up here in Steamboat. Every graduation season, I remember how he chose to enlist as a Marine and left for boot camp right after graduation. He went on to a career that included guarding the White House, graduating college through ROTC to go back in the Corps as an officer, training Marine officers in Quantico and traveling the world, to his chagrin, that didn’t have any “action.” But that changed when he volunteered for a special mission to train the Iraqi military.
It was a really tough situation. The heat and sand were oppressive. The situation was tense, but he was doing what he had trained to do, and it was his calling. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
On Oct. 8, 2006, my family came home to a white van waiting for them. Robert was 33 years old when he died.
The Marine Corps motto is Semper Fidelis, which means always faithful. Though I’m not a Marine, I am an American, and this is my chance to remain “always faithful” to my brother and to those who served and died fighting for us.
Paula Salky will spend Memorial Day visiting her daughter studying abroad in Jerusalem, Israel. She will say a special prayer for our fallen soldiers at the Western Wall. “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”
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