We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them.

Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial kickoff to summer. Barbecues sizzling. High school marching bands tooting out Stars and Stripes Forever. Red, white, and blue hanging in every city, far and wide and on TV, you will inevitably hear a recitation of Lt. Col. J. McCrae’s most popular and most quoted poems, “Flander’s Field”.:.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.

As we navigate through this weekend toward Memorial Day, I want to take another opportunity, not only to remember another brave soul lost, but to tell you the story of his final journey home.
In the days and weeks leading up to every Memorial Day weekend, for the past several years, an ever-popular photo takes control as the most circulated photo, not only among members of the military and their families, but across the entire world. It can be found on blogs, various social media platforms, print publications and across the airwaves in many countries … it has been “shared”, “favorited”, “re-tweeted” and “liked” over and over, hundreds of thousands of times, since it’s emergence in 2007.
When 2nd Lt. James Cathey’s remains arrived at the Reno–Tahoe International Airport, several United States Marines climbed into the cargo hold of the plane and draped the flag over his casket as passengers watched the family gather on the tarmac next to the aircraft.
Major Steve Beck, 2nd Lt. Cathey’s military escort described the scene as one of the most powerful in the process. “See the people in the windows? They’ll sit right there in the plane, watching those Marines honor their brother. You have to wonder what is going through their minds … knowing that they are on the plane that brought him home for the final time.” “They’re going to remember being on that plane for the rest of their lives. They’re going to remember bringing that Marine home.”

Honor after the fall. USMC Major Steve Beck prepares to open the casket of 2nd Lt. James J. Cathey.
When his body arrived at the airport in Reno, USMS Major Steve Beck prepared for the final inspection of 2nd Lt. James J. Cathey’s remains, just days after notifying 2nd Lt. Cathey’s wife of the Marine’s death in Iraq.
Taken by the photographer Todd Heisler for The Rocky Mountain News series, “Jim Comes Home”, the story documents the journey home and burial of Second Lt. James Cathey.
The night before the burial, Katherine refused to leave his casket, asking to sleep next to her husband for the last time. The Marines standing guard made a bed for her, tucking in the sheets below the flag. Before she fell asleep, she opened her laptop and played songs that reminded her of James and one of the Marines asked if she wanted them to continue standing watch as she slept, to which she replied, “I think that’s what he would have wanted.”

When a soldier dies, everyone close to them gives their all as well.

While there are proponents on both sides of the “How to Honor/Celebrate/Remember/Pay Tribute To” Memorial Day … I have to agree with one of the BEST opinions in regard to this very topic … If I may quote a VERY wise man and an all-around great guy, whom I am Blessed enough to know (Nicholas Rahn)
“People have a lot of views on Memorial Day. Here are mine:
1. Dont feel guilty for hanging out with your family. 2. Have a few beers and hang out with your friends. 3. Dont shame people for having a BBQ on a day we remember the fallen. Everyone pays tribute in their own way. 4. Yes, I am a Veteran. No, don’t thank me for my service. This day is for the fallen, not those still around. 5. If you feel the need to visit a military cemetery, then do it, but dont feel obligated. 6. The folks who fought and died, did it for Freedom. It is your American right to do what ever the f**k you want on Memorial Day.
Have fun, drink a beer, hug your kids, dump a beer for your dead homies… just enjoy your Freedom.”

Just enjoy your Freedom.

Have a wonderful rest of your Saturday.