Some of you may get tired of how I always have to do some reminiscing on Memorial Day weekend. But that’s OK. If the worst thing anybody can say about me is that I spend too much time talking about this special holiday, I have no problems whatsoever. The fact is, I always remember some event or person during this weekend that makes me appreciate our folks who have served in the military. And, in my case, we’re talking about my grandfather William C. Horton, my father Roy T. Horton, my uncle Dick Horton and my son Jeff. Each served this country honorably, and once a year it renews my sense of patriotism when I think about them – and anyone else who has worn a military uniform.
Many of you can recall when I’ve written in Cotton Farming magazine about my family’s connection to the military. My grandfather served in the Spanish-American War. He served with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders more than 100 years ago. My father was a career non-commissioned officer in the Air Force and a top turret gunner on a B-17 that flew bombing missions over Germany, Italy and other parts of Europe during World War II. Finally, my son Jeff was an Army officer who spent seven and a half years in the military. He served as a medical evacuation helicopter pilot and did two tours in Afghanistan and one tour in Iraq. He’s now an airline pilot and lives in Virginia.
I have friends say that it would be too stressful to have a son serving in a war on the other side of the world. They can hardly bear the thought of such a scenario. I try to respect their opinion, but, at the same time, I also am proud that we have young men and women who are brave enough to serve this country – no matter how much danger is involved. A high price has to be paid to defend this country’s freedom. And, too often we tend to forget that our soldiers are there on the front lines around the world defending what we hold most sacred – freedom and liberty. I can remember talking to soldiers who said they only had one request of the American people: “Don’t forget us.”
For that reason, I never let a Memorial Day pass by without joining my 85-year-old mother as we visit Memorial Park and National Cemetery in Memphis. We place flags at the gravesites of my father, uncle and grandfather. And we always pause to look at other flags that have been put out to honor our fallen soldiers. It gives us a sense of pride to see so many flags displayed in such a spectacular fashion.
If we are true patriots, we should remember soldiers every day of the year. But, on Memorial Day, amidst the backyard pool parties, barbecue cookouts, parades and fireworks displays, here’s hoping that all of us will take a few minutes and think about what our lives would be like if we didn’t have brave soldiers serving our country around the world. Life would be very different.
The next time you’re walking through an airport or restaurant and see a group of soldiers, stop and shake their hands. You’ll be amazed at how it makes you feel. The soldiers will appreciate it, and you’ll know what it feels like to see American heroes up close and personal.
May we never forget our soldiers. They are simply the best and bravest that America has to offer.