so, i'd have to say for the first time in my life, i did what you're supposed to do for memorial day. i was part of a huge tribute to memorialize those who have given their lives for our country.
yesterday, bryan and i headed up to DC to ride in rolling thunder. if you don't know what this is, somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 motorcycles gather at the pentagon and parade into DC and to the vietnam war memorial wall. the goofy thing about me is, until we left frederick, md with a few thousand motorcycles and passed people waving american flags from overpasses and firemen and policemen saluting us, it hadn't occurred to me that we were doing this for a reason besides being part of a big motorcycle rally. and of course, because i'm an overly emotional girl, i got teary eyed two or three times driving into the city. my future mother-in-law has a sticker on her helmet that says "bikers have big hearts." and they sure do.
we met up with bryan's brother kevin and his daughter katrina, and bryan's mom and dad (hi guys!) in frederick, MD to ride in, and were with them throughout the day. i have to say, the whole experience was one i'm very glad to have had (you have seriously never seen so many motorcycles in your life, and if you've never been there, you can't possibly imagine this many motorcycles in one place), but damn was it hot. and i ain't so hip to the heat. i tried my hardest to not whine, because no one likes a whiny future wife, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law or aunt-in-law, but i think i ended up whining a bit anyway. :) there are so many motorcycles there that even though they start leaving at 12pm, it takes several hours to get all of them out and on their way, which means we got to hang out in the parking lot(s) of the pentagon for those several hours. thankfully i brought lots of snacks (which i ate lots of) and they had ice cream and water. and i finally got a little shade, which helped immensely.
when we finally set off on the parade, i wasn't sure what to expect. what we encountered was pretty cool, considering we were coming through almost 3 hours after it started: tons of people on the streets cheering us on and waving and sticking their hands out for high fives. i must say, i felt a bit like miss america. :) the most moving person we encountered on the route was a marine in full dress standing in salute over a gun and helmet--a symbol of his fallen comrades.
i don't come from a military family, and have never had any desire to be a part of the military, but when i see things like that marine and the korean war memorial and the vietnam war memorial, i'm overwhelmed by this feeling of empathy, of sadness... i don't even quite know how to explain it. all i can think about is how close these guys become when they join the family that is any given branch of the military... the hell they go through in boot camp, the hell they go through in war, and i can't fathom what it must be like to watch your friends, your family really, die right next to you. to know that with a little tiny twist of fate that could have easily been you... to feel a sense of duty, of purpose, yet to feel like you just want to be away from all the pain and horror of war.
and so, i am glad to have been a very, very small part of a memorial day tribute to those who have felt that sense of duty and of purpose and who made the ultimate sacrifice in the hopes of making the world a better place.
on this memorial day, i remember.