A Memorial Day Remembrance: No Longer Taking America for Granted
Industry icon Ron Davis reflects on his decision to enlist in the U.S. Army in 1956 and how that experience forever changed him.
It was about this time of the year in 1956 when I, almost a man, graduated high school. I was 17, about the youngest in my class, and just about the least likely to succeed having spent the previous four years doing almost everything to avoid studying or preparing for the future.
While all my friends were preparing to go to college, I was sitting at home wondering what to do when fall came. Get a job? Travel (I had a ’46 Chrysler that probably could’ve made it to the Iowa border, one of the closest states to Chicago where I had pretty much grown up)? Nothing appealed to me, and the closer we came to the fall season the more my parents were becoming hysterical at my not going to college. Naturally, I did the only thing a person my age could do; I enlisted in the United States Army.
Since the Army had come out with a new enlistment program of six months active duty, followed by 5½ years of reserve duty, I felt I didn’t have anything to lose. And so it was, five weeks later I found myself on a train to Fort Leonard Wood, a training facility in central Missouri.
A few days later I found myself starting basic training. All the men around me were draftees and in their early- to mid-20s, and seemingly to me, worldly. I, on the other hand, came to the baleful realization that I had actually never been away from home (did summer camp count?). I knew I was away from home when one of my “care” packages came from home.
Included with the homemade cookies was a whole salami sent from my grandparents. I was, indeed, a stranger in a strange place. One thing that happened in the beginning of my training was orientation classes on the origins of the U.S. military. Surprisingly, mostly to me, I found it fascinating and started looking for more ways to learn about the wars that we had fought, the sacrifices we had made and the fact that I as a trainee soldier was doing something to help keep our country strong.
I came to respect and admire the men I met who had actually seen battle. I started realizing that all the wars we fought had brought us to where we were — on the pinnacle of a great future. I decided that instead of avoiding maturity I would grow up to be a productive man. A productive American man. A man who started to understand that so much of what he took for granted in America was fought for by so many people, many of whom gave their lives.
Over the years I have come to respect Memorial Day as the one day we can look back in our history and reflect. And, perhaps, by reading this brief editorial, you too can take a moment and reflect that all that has been given to us came about because of the sacrifices that others have made. On this day, take the time to salute a flag. If you go to a parade and see some old men in army uniforms, go over and shake (ever so gently) their hands and thank them for their service.
Saluting the Flag
Every Memorial Day I have a little ritual that up to now has been personal to me. I take a walk through my neighborhood and as I pass homes that have flags displayed anywhere on their front lawn, I stop, face the flag and salute it. It is a quiet neighborhood and I doubt if anybody has ever seen me do this. In my own way, I feel as though I am acknowledging that I am here as a result of the sacrifices so many others have made.
For me, it is my way of saying thank you. You might try something like that to accomplish the same thing. And, for just a few moments, at least a few of us will have acknowledged what brought us to where we are, and who we need to thank.
Enjoy your Memorial Day, have a hot dog and beer on me, and remember why we have a Memorial Day.
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