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Memorials Are For Remembering    With Memorial Day here, I imagine many of you are just thankful for a day off, or at least extra pay to be at work. Many are hoping for good weather to enjoy the first ‘summer holiday’, and others may be hoping for rain so they can just simply stay in and rest! But whatever you are doing, I hope we are all finding a way and some time to just be remembering. Memorials are for remembering. From rainbows to unleavened bread, God said it is good to remember; and He established several memorials throughout history. Usually we are remembering the bravery and sacrifices of the military on this day, and I am guilty of taking that for granted most of the time. I’ll take the opportunity right here to say a heartfelt THANK YOU to all who gave their time, and often life and limb, for our country. A hundred times thank you!

Remembering Our Heroes  I have enjoyed reading the pieces written lately for our local heroes, though they’d not want it worded that way; Robert Hendon, Billy Murdock, and others. The word ‘hero’ is defined by the heart who spells it. It’s something a little different to each of us. I got to wondering why I know just about nothing of the military experience of my relatives. It is because they don’t like to talk about their service time much, I guess. With the humility they learned from authority, along with the experiences they’d just as soon forget, it’s easy to see why they’d rather have been talking about their first car, or hauling hay. I want to name them here just to pay their service the respect it deserves.

First, my “little brother” Mark Alan Jackson, three years and eight months in the National Guard and ten years in the Marines, during which time he served in Desert Storm. His scars are in his ears and in his heart. I remember he was away at Christmas and made his own fake fireplace out of cardboard to hang a fake stocking. I remember that his first baby was born while he was away, and how exciting it was to watch him walk into the airport the first time he ever laid eyes on her. Thank you Mark.

Several of my favorite uncles were military men. Uncle Wade was married to my Momma’s only sister and treated us just like his own family.  Alvin Wade Holley served in the army during WWII as a mechanic. He wore an injured eye the rest of his life because a starter fell off into his eye while servicing one of the army trucks. I don’t remember any of his stories if there were any; I do remember he had the biggest heart in all the world for anyone who needed anything ever! I miss you, and thank you Uncle Wade.

Uncle Jerry Fuqua served in the army in the Korean War, married my daddy’s late sister, and lives in Paris, Tennessee. Now, as I said, they didn’t talk about themselves much so I didn’t hear this first hand from him, but Lil Brother says there’s this one incident he has heard about from Uncle Jerry’s combat time. I won’t be too specific, but it involves the necessary bodily function that still had to be carried out even if a tree or a ditch was the only outhouse available. It also involved a Korean sniper, on a hill with a good view of Uncle Jerry taking care of business so to speak. Now the story goes that when the shot went right between Uncle Jerry’s knees, nearly scaring him out of a year’s growth, the sniper just grinned and waved. I’ll be interested in finding out how much of that was truth. But at nearly 10PM, I’m not bothering a sweetheart like him just to get a good story straightened out. More on that later, perhaps. What I remember most of Uncle Jerry, is that he takes EVERYTHING in stride, cool as a cucumber, and loved my Aunt Sue truly big. Thank you Uncle Jerry.

Henry Veltman Jackson, my great-uncle, served in the Navy and experienced Pearl Harbor up close and personal. The story goes that he saved a piece of a Japanese pilot’s scarf when the pilot crashed into their ship. That was a little too close, I’d say. Uncle Veltman’s son, Johnnie Veltman Jackson also served in the Navy. They are both gone now, and what I know about their duties is nothing, I hate to say. What I remember is that they both made the first five years of my life a joy. Uncle Veltman and Aunt Lorene were like parents to my parents when they were newly weds in a big city far from home. And Johnnie was a big brother to me. They loved me like I was their own. Many others have spoken of how richly that family layered the love onto their lives, too. Thank you Uncle Veltman, and thank you Johnnie.

Hero is a Subjective Word   Last but not least, MY GRANDPA! William Chesterfield Wilkins, Chess to most folks, Chesley to my Grandma, Daddy to my Momma. Grandpa was inducted into the army near the end of WWI, when there was  an outbreak of pneumonia. Grandpa was sent home to recover from the pneumonia and the war ended before he had a chance to return. So, his status of ‘hero’ to me, all took shape at home. I remember that Grandpa could do chin ups from a maple tree limb when he was in his 60’s, maybe near 70; and that we planted a garden together in his back yard – in town. He cared a whole whoppin’ lot about his grandkids, and that we learned the important things. He chose the direct, quick and effective application of discipline; which is why he gave me my hardest whipping ever when I was about ten. I watched my little brother pretty closely after that, for a while anyway. Grandpa was a diabetic and at that time, the only snacks he could have were bananas and Fresca. I remember that when we went to his house, he would give us his last banana if we asked for it; no, he just gave it without waiting for us to ask; and a glass of Fresca too. He didn’t have an easy life, but he made life easy for his family in every way he could. Thank you Grandpa.

Remembering the lives of our personal heroes is a way of keeping them near if their hearts lie still. It tells those who remain with us that they matter, and that they always will.

I would be an ungrateful Christian if I didn’t mention my biggest hero. A memorial I am privileged to take part in every Sunday is to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He gave His entire existence to saving, healing, feeding, and teaching the masses – the entire world if they will accept Him. From the beginning of time as His blood flowed backward, to the end of time as His blood flows forward from the cross, He stands lovingly, tenderly pleading, “Come unto me.” Thank you God.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” ( Matthew 11:28 NKJV)