A most solemn holiday

Published 3:17 pm Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Some holidays are meant for celebrations and enjoyment. Colorful decorations, parades, fireworks, and all kinds of fun are appropriate. Getting together with family and friends around specially-themed menus makes for a joyous occasion.

There is at least one holiday on our annual calendar, though, that should be observed with genuine solemnity. Moments of serious remembrance and respect should be the order of the day. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying a cookout or delicious meal is inappropriate. I’m just saying that the focus of the holiday should be on the real and eternal sacrifices that so many have made on behalf of the freedoms that we all enjoy as citizens of this free nation.

Of course I am speaking of the upcoming Memorial Day, our most solemn holiday. Our nation doesn’t always “do” solemn very well. Solemnity is not the most pleasurable emotion. Lightheartedness and frivolity is preferred.

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Yet, the freedoms and values of our nation are not free, as the saying goes. With all the things we Americans expect from our nation, the costs are immense, but no cost is as sobering as the cost of a soldier’s life. The ultimate sacrifice paid, the loss of sons and daughters to their families forever, should make our Memorial Day a day of reverence.

In World War II, alone, this county, Decatur, lost 49 men. The county in which I grew up, Mitchell, lost 27 in that war. Overall, our nation lost over 400,000 in that war.

In the Vietnam War, the one that affected my generation more than any other, our nation lost almost 60,000 men.

When added all together, the wars and conflicts in which our nation has been engaged since the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord, our nation has lost almost 1,400,000 men and women.

But Memorial Day should not be about mere statistics. Every fatality is someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister, husband or wife, father or mother. When the news comes, it’s not a number, but a person.

Every year during these days around Memorial Day, I go the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall website. I’m looking for one person’s page.

Donnie Glover was a classmate of mine at Pelham High School. He lived in the Mount Olive Community and was a member of that community’s Baptist Church. He sang in a quartet that included his mother and daddy.

I remember Donnie as a fellow-member of the FFA. I won’t say we were best friends, but we had some classes together and Pelham High School was not that large. Everybody knew everybody.

The Wall reminds me that Donnie was drafted into the Army in the year we graduated, 1967. His tour in Vietnam began on the infamous date of December 7 of that year. He was sent to Quang Ngai, South Vietnam. He was listed as a casualty of hostile ground activity and suffered multiple fragmentation wounds on January 19, 1968.

Donnie Glover had been in Vietnam for less than two months when we all got the word back in Pelham. We were stunned because this was someone we knew. Suddenly war became more than a John Wayne movie.

There is wonderful picture of a smiling Donnie Glover on his page. He looked just as I remembered and his best friend, James Gregory, wrote a loving tribute. There were others who had made comments. So did I.

I don’t want to forget the men and women who have paid a precious debt that all of us owe. The goodness of America costs. Those costs have been faithfully paid by brave men like Donnie Glover. May we never forget them.