Solemn Memorial Day: In Memory of SPC Shaun A. Novak, and Many, Many Others.

Posted by politicalpartypooper on May 31, 2010

Memorial Day in Wisconsin.  A marching band playing patriotic tunes, a parade, Veterans of Foreign Wars marching by, politicians in their convertibles because they’re too important to walk, and finally, the cemetery.  A solemn service, a speech or two, more patriotic tunes, and finally the crowd disperses, each to his own celebration of Memorial Day.

Maybe you go to a nearby lake, or the beach of Lake Michigan.  Maybe it’s your own backyard, with friends and family gathered around.  Whatever the setting, beer and bratwurst are nearby anywhere you go in Wisconsin, along with that nagging feeling that tomorrow will come too soon, and this three-day weekend will be over.  For most, Memorial Day is just that; a three-day weekend, a reason for a trip to the cottage up north, an excuse to cook out, drink beer, and swim in the lake.  People pray for good weather, as if God finds weather the most important thing on Memorial Day.

What’s missing from this nearly perfect setting?

The reason Memorial Day is a Holiday at all, that’s what’s missing.  The dead are missing.  The grief is missing.  The remembrance of those who shed their lives in the ultimate sacrifice for their country.  Sure, we can remember them for a minute or two at the cemetery, if you go there.  But most don’t.  Most have been planning this weekend for a month; right down to the Secret Stadium Sauce for the brats.  But what most haven’t planned for is the dead, especially those from their own community.

That’s what this day is for.  It’s for those men and women whom America forgets in our daily lives.  We set aside one day a year to honor the fallen in arms.    One of them I do not know came to mind this morning, a young man from Two Rivers, Wisconsin, who, along with four others, was killed by a roadside bomb on August 27, 2006, in Taji, Iraq.  His name is Shaun A. Novak, SPC.  Here is a link for his memorial page, so that you can know him this day.

We set aside one day a year for our fallen sons, daughters, lovers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives…

But for most of us, Memorial Day isn’t even set aside for them.  It’s set aside for us; for our leisure, our enjoyment, our vacation.  Shaun A. Novak left behind a Father, a Mother, a Brother, a girlfriend, a whole host of friends and family, and he left behind so much more than that.  He left behind the shadow of his soul; whether that be a memory of his service, or for those who knew him, a memory of a life well lived.  He left behind a name that will be remembered in Two Rivers, Wisconsin for as long as Memorial Days are celebrated.  He left behind a circle of friends and acquaintances, each of whom, though they know it not, are still affected by their having known him, every day of their lives.

Memorial Day is for those who grieve.  It is a day set aside to honor not just those who have passed, but those whose lives have been torn asunder by loss.  It is in honor of those wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, lovers, family, close friends, that we celebrate MEMORIAL Day.  If you have ever attended a funeral with full military honors, you know the loss I am speaking of.  There is no other funeral service like it for grief, anger, loss;  an absolute surrender to emotion. No one touches the heart of a community like a fallen soldier, because every one within it knows that this is one death that was given freely, yet no one can willingly accept it in such a sacrificial spirit.

Their loss is not common amongst their community.  How many families have lost a son in battle in Two Rivers, Wisconsin  since we attacked Iraq and Afghanistan?  One.  The Shaun A. Novak family.  That’s it.  To understand how rare and uncommon the ultimate sacrifice is, just check your own community, and the communities nearby for the frequency of a soldier’s sacrifice in battle.

Memorial Day isn’t a day to remember the hundreds upon thousands of soldiers who have died at arms.  It’s a day to remember the one or two from your community who died for your freedom.  You see, when we try to celebrate the sacrifice of thousands, something gets lost, and I think that something is so very important.  It’s the personalization of that grief, that loss, that causes mothers, wives, and lovers to wail in agony as the sacrifice of their loved one is honored by Taps.  It is the knowing that causes grief, honor, and celebration.

You cannot know hundreds of thousands of soldiers, but you can know the one or two in your own community.  Instead of going to the parade today, one in which my daughter was leading her high school flutes, I stayed at home and looked for Shaun Novak.  I knew of him, but I never knew him.  He worked at the restaurant just up the road from me, but I can’t say that I recall ever seeing him there.  But I found out about him a little bit today.  And so I’m going to honor him.  In my own, pathetic little way, I’m going to dedicate this day to Shaun, and my best thoughts and hopes I will send out to his family, to his friends, to his lover and to those soldiers he left behind.  He deserves so much more, and so do they.

It’s Memorial Day today.  Who are you honoring?  Get to know the ones who lived in your community.  There aren’t many; that kind of sacrifice is still uncommon , and so are the families left behind.  Someone knows them; maybe you personally.  Someone you know knows them well.  And there they are; left behind.  This day, honor them, the ones you can know.  That’s what this day is for.     Ω


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