by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador
Keeper Hubby was in the Army for 5 years and in the Marine Corps for 4 years. I’m familiar with the military life from a family perspective. I’m familiar with the stress, the loneliness, the worry, the hard work it takes to keep a family together with a parent/spouse’s long-term absence. I’m familiar with the happiness and relief when said loved one returns from deployment.
I am not familiar with the loss, grief, and hopelessness those whose loved ones make the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country safe and free experience. I have much empathy for those families, but I can never begin to understand what they go through. This week I tried to understand in a small way.
Write Anywhere #41: Memorial Day Remembrance
I attended the Memorial Weekend tribute at Floral Haven Cemetery here in my community. The Avenue of Flags is a tribute they present by flying veterans’ government issued casket flags for the families that request it each Memorial Day.
Each flag has a metal tag identifying the person the flag represents. That floored me. I never knew the flags stood for a person. I thought they were just decoration to commemorate the holiday. This year there were 3,053 flags.
The tinkling of the name tags against the flag poles in the wind combined with a baritone voice reading the name of each veteran over the loudspeaker floated over the area in an eerie somber chorus.
The park was filled with people enduring the hot wind of the highest temperature so far this year. Groups gathered at a patriarch’s final resting place, happy and laughing like a family reunion. Others trekked around on their annual scavenger hunt, searching for their loved one’s flag. I spotted a man carrying two 2-liter soda bottles. He poured one out into the ground. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing until he stooped down to wipe clean the grave marker at his feet.
They have a reenactment of Arlington National Cemetery’s Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns by the Cadets of the Starbase Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol. The ceremony was silent save for the cadets punctuating the ritual with the tap of boots.
It was a very moving experience. I sat on the bleachers they set up for viewing and took a few notes. It’s appropriate that these young people are part of the re-enactment: people forget that war is fought by the young, and the young are the ones that do the dying. If old men in the halls of government around the globe could remember that.
I realized I couldn’t write anything that would express what the remembrance really means. Instead, I decided to make a list.
Army Staff Sgt. Travis M. Tompkins, age 31, Lawton, OK
Army 2nd Lt. Jared W. Ewy, age 33, Edmond, OK
Army Specialist Augustus J. Vicari, age 22, Broken Arrow, OK
Army Staff Sgt. Kirk A. Owen, age 37, Sapulpa, OK
Army Sgt. Anthony Del Mar Petersen, age 24, Chelsea, OK
Army Specialist Jordan M. Morris, age 23, Stillwater, OK
Army 2nd Lt. Joe L. Cunningham, age 27, Kingston, OK
Army 1st Lt. Damon Leehan, age 30, Moore, OK
Army Specialist Joshua M. Seals, age 21, Porter, OK
Army Sgt. Bret D. Isenhower, age 26, Lamar, OK
Army Specialist Christopher D. Horton, age 26, Collinsville, OK
Army Pfc. Tony J. Potter, age 20, Okmulgee, OK
Army Sgt. Mycal L. Prince, age 28, Minco, OK
Army Specialist Francisco J. Briseno-Alvarez, Jr., age 27, Oklahoma City, OK
Army Pfc. Sarina Butcher, age 19, Checotah, OK
Army Specialist Christopher Gailey, age 26, Ochelata, OK
Marine Corporal Jon-Luke Bateman, age 22, Tulsa, OK
Army Sgt. Allen R. McKenna, Jr., age 28, Noble, OK
Army Specialist James E. Dutton, age 25, Checotah, OK
Army 2nd Lt. Tobias C. Alexander, age 30, Lawton, OK
Navy Hospitalman Eric D. Warren, age 23, Shawnee, OK
This is a list of the military personnel from my state of Oklahoma who died in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Phillipines this last year. To them, their spouses, their children, their parents, their friends, their communities, there’s only one thing to write.