Jerry Wilkerson: Let us honor our heroes both living and dead

2014-05-26T00:00:00Z 2014-06-05T18:24:10Z Jerry Wilkerson: Let us honor our heroes both living and deadBy Jerry Wilkerson Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

A few years back I had the opportunity to visit the WWII memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

I went there especially for my dad, a sailor. One of his billets was on the Island of Saipan, in the Pacific Marianna Islands. I have always been very proud of his military commitment, as I am with the scores of others in my family who served in the Marines and the Navy since nearly the Revolutionary War.

Kneeling in front of the stone set to memorialize the battle of Saipan, I glanced over my shoulder and saw a veteran in a wheelchair wearing a VFW campaign hat. He was squared away with ribbons proudly displayed upon his chest. We acknowledged each other and spoke in hushed tones.

I told him I was there for my dad. He indicated he, too, was at this place to honor old comrades who served with him. My father had passed away a few years earlier and did not have the opportunity to visit his memorial. If only he could have witnessed this American cenotaph preserved for his gallant generation.

I softly said I wished my dad could be with me. The veteran graciously responded, “He is here with you now.” Then he said, “Just close your eyes and whisper his name in your heart. He is nigh.”

The vet went on to tell me that he, too, was on Saipan, a Seabee, as was my dad, and tasked with building runways after the battle on that black-sand island.

That memory with the old Navy veteran is with me every day of my life. It is my living memorial not only to my dad but to all the veterans and their families who lived and continue to live each day of their lives with the dreadfulness of war.

On this day, I ask that we not only respect and revere our dead and living military members, but also their families, the wives, husbands, moms and dads at home. They are heroes as well, holding the family together, living in constant fear of loss or injury to their loved ones serving us and our country.

They all gently remind us of the sacrifices they are willing to make for our freedom and liberty.

As a tribute to those who could not make muster this Day of Memorials, the following is the first verse of taps:

“Day is done. Gone the sun. From the lakes. From the hills. From the sky. All is well. Safely rest. God is nigh.”

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