While dealing with some serious health issues and having a huge pool party to throw, I just barely made it through Memorial Day this year. So, now, I have to take some time to reflect on the meaning of the holiday.
My mom’s dad was a Korean War veteran who was very proud of his service. But growing up, my sister and I were too young to understand the true impact of what this meant. I remember he had all of his military operations patches sewn to a denim jacket for me to wear to school. This was during those impressionable, highly critical years of intermediate school, and even one person making fun of me had me cutting them all off and keeping them safe in my room where only I could see them. This was obviously not the best decision, but I was a dumb kid.
“Where is your jacket?” Grandpa would ask me each time he visited, palming me a $100 bill. I always had to make up a story about letting a friend wear it because they were so proud, which had me feeling lousy.
If there had been Internet back then, I could have looked up the patches to see that Grandpa was quite the war hero. For starters, ezrackbuilder.com has just about every award, ribbon, and medal in easy-to-find visual charts for active-duty military and curious civilians to browse, searchable by the branch of service.
Flyingtigerssurplus.com has all of the patches possible for every branch and division, making it easy to find and purchase the patches.
When my grandpa passed away in 2002, I decided to make it my mission to get him approved and buried where he would hold the highest honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought, as I was used to mountains of paperwork already from being in the military. Even though I’ve seen a lot of army flags for sale, I never thought I’ll have to receive one in this manner.
The funeral was very emotional, as Grandpa’s veteran colleagues thought it fit to hand me the flag during the ceremony since I was there in my military dress blues. It’s a very deliberate ceremonious act, which is why we took great care when it came to searching for something like these Batesville caskets for sale so this particular ritual could be completed in the most beautiful way. Once done, the honor guard folds the flag after it has been draped on the casket. It’s a literal representation of death that I just wasn’t ready to face. It was at this moment that I finally broke down in tears.
After the funeral, it was time to bury Grandpa at Arlington. I traveled alone from Washington state with his ashes. (After a flight from Seattle to San Diego, they confiscated the shotgun shells from the funeral’s 21-gun salute at security, marking the second time I broke down in tears.)
When I finally got to the national cemetery with Grandpa, I was able to sit with the rabbi for a little while and find peace. It was then that I apologized to Grandpa for hiding those patches. I promised to him that day that I would never be ashamed of his service, or mine. I very strongly felt his love and acceptance, and when it was time to push his ashes into the small marble enclosure, I shed my final tears and said goodbye.
I knew he always would be with me, and each Memorial Day as I pull off one of the biggest parties I do all year and wake up to the beautiful sun shining down on me, I know it’s him.
@SUPERCW Christa Wittmier is “SUPERCW” on all social media. Find her on Snapchat, SoundCloud, Twitter, Vine and Instagram. By night, she is known as DJ SuperCW. By day, she is known as senior marketing director for Young’s Market Company of Hawaii. Her nightlife blog SuperCity runs every Wednesday on HonoluluPulse.com.