This year will be the first year that we don’t go to Arlington National Cemetery to put flowers on my Uncle and my Father. While we may not be celebrating our Memorial Day in our usual fashion, today, and every day, we remember those who gave it all fighting for our country. We remember those who gave it all even when they were looked upon as second class citizens. We remember the women who had to fight the enemy and fight for acceptance in the military. We remember those who were fresh out of high school when they took up arms and gave their lives for their country. We remember the men and women who left behind spouses and children and families in the name of protecting our freedoms.
I grew up a “military kid”…not in the sense of moving around and living in a new state or country every few years, but as a kid who was constantly surrounded by the grandeur, the grit, the pomp and circumstance, the honor of the military. My father and Uncle were both Marines and my mom worked for the Marine Corp for nearly 40 years. I spent as much time on military bases as I did on suburban streets. It is this upbringing that has allowed me to always honor and revere the men and women of our military. Few will ever know all that they sacrifice to fight for our freedom. Today I honor the two soldiers who impacted my life the most.
Edward Leon Green was a US Marine and Purple Heart recipient. He fought in Vietnam. He received a Purple Heart for the physical injuries he received in war, but mentally he was damaged as well. He was never quite “the same” when he came back from war. I’m not sure anyone ever could be the same after what they saw and experienced. Nevertheless he was more like my father than my Uncle. He loved and cared for me like a father. He always looked after our family. He was a hardworking man of God until he was called home. I honor him today and I am grateful for the man that he was in my life.
My father, David Anthony Duarte, though absent from my life since I was 3 years old, I still go and place flowers on him every Memorial Day. He was a proud Marine. He loved the Corps. He rose through the ranks and became a GYSGT in a time where ascending the ranks in the military wasn’t easy for a black man (sadly, it still isn’t). I honor him for the man he desired to be. I honor him because when I got older, the hurt in me saw the hurt in him. Fight or flight often applies to our inner demons as well. Some of us face our demons head on. Others spend a lifetime trying to outrun the hurt. Thankfully, even in our inaction, people can learn from our choices. I am thankful for the lessons his life taught me.
On this Memorial Day, and every day, we honor all of those who paid the ultimate price, and the families they left behind. On this day we memorialize not only the fallen soldiers, but also the death of innocence, the death of “normalcy” the death of dreams, and the death of peace that war has taken from so many of our men and women who are still here today. On this day, and indeed every day, we remember you, we love you, and we thank you for all you have given. For those who have gone on, we will never forget you. In loving memory of all who have fallen.