I shot this photo in 2006 in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. There was a flag planted on the hilltop for every soldier that lost his or her life in Iraq and at that time there were about 2,500 flags. Eventually (and not slowly) that number would climb to around 4,500--fifty percent of those were under 25 years old. While it was heartening and inspiring to come across this amazing display, it is, of course, a memorial that is equal parts gratitude and sorrow. Freedom is never free and we're reminded of that almost every day. But it would be nice if the reminders were less frequent and if many more sons and daughters and parents made it home safely.
Probably the best war film (if there is such a thing as a good war film) that I have ever seen is Saving Private Ryan (Special Limited Edition). The opening 20 minutes or so, as you probably know, are among the most realistic and gruesome war scenes ever filmed: they are almost impossible to watch, but they should be required viewing for everyone--particularly the old men and women who send young men and women to war. If you've never seen the movie, put it on your Netflix list, or just go buy a copy and then share it with friends.
I was in a restaurant with a friend a few weeks ago and a soldier in uniform came in with a small group of people--it was just a few days after Bin Laden was killed--and at one point he walked from one corner of the restaurant to the other to use the bathroom. As he walked past, people at virtually every table stopped him, said "thank you" and shook his hand. They had no idea who he was, no idea where he had served or for how long, but each one stopped their meal to show their gratitude. How nice that he was home among family and friends to hear those words--and for his friends and family to see that wave of appreciation.
While you're thinking of Memorial Day, here's a bit of it's history as posted by my radio partner and friend Ken Brown. The contrast between the original intent of the holiday and what we have today is pretty interesting.
And to all who are serving now and who have served: Thank you.