Jeanette Sekan
Jeanette Sekan
By Jeanette Sekan
The Cody (Wyo.) Enterprise
HCP columnist

Memorial Day.

I guess in today’s parlance it’s Memorial Day weekend. But as an Air Force brat, the change hasn’t come easily. Though I’m far removed from the child who got to travel far and experience much, I still have memories of what it was like way back when.

As with most people, my memories now have a filter that didn’t exist at the time. That helps put a context to the memory, but the unfiltered memory of a child is also something to take seriously and to wish still existed today.

I realize with hindsight memories are delicate. They are also riddled with slight errors. The facts and the feelings sometimes are not aligned. It’s nothing intentional; it’s just how things work with humans and memories.

My family was of the poor south. When I say they were poor, that is actually a kind qualifier. Both parents were products of large families, limited or no education, they picked cotton or whatever other work was available, and had to live truly hand to mouth.

My mother’s father died when she was a baby, the youngest of seven. Her mother survived the loss of her husband and two children, and had to endure more than any person, much less woman, can even imagine today.

My parents married young and had children when they weren’t much more than children themselves. My father once told my brother the only way he knew to survive and do better for his family was to join the military. So, he enlisted in the Air Force. All I can say now is “thank God.”

I think of that decision each Memorial Day. I think of what service in the military meant back then and today. I think of how my life experience was shaped so early on by the fact of my dad’s service. I think of being in Germany in the relatively early post-war days, where remnants of war were still evident, and the initial Cold War edifices were also on full display.

I didn’t know our landlord was a Nazi until years later. I think of what my life would most likely be had Dad not made that one monumental decision.

I think how my teen years, and those of my brother, were shaped by the Vietnam War. I remember my early college days were shared with Vietnam veterans and their silent and sometimes not-so-silent heartbreak. Boys turned to men. A country divided.

I’m proud each Memorial Day. I also mourn each Memorial Day. Since the demise of the draft, fewer and fewer of our citizens have a direct link with the military and those who serve. That sea change is having an effect that only historians will be able to assess accurately.

When I was young, naive and uninformed, I was in favor of an all-volunteer service. Now, I’m not so sure that demise was in our collective best interest. I’m sure many wrestle with what is the best and fairest way for our collective national military security to be handled. I don’t know the answer; I’m just less sure today.

Memorial Day. Worthy of much reflection.