As we pour charcoal into our grills, sideline the street for parades, and enjoy the spectacular firework shows, let us not forget what Memorial Day weekend is truly about. Often times we remember this holiday for its moments of entertainment, and the way families and friends come together in the warmth of late spring. While Memorial Day weekend encapsulates all of these pieces, and we need not feel shame for experiencing these joys, at the very center we should feel a sense of gratitude for those who have allowed us to have this celebration in their absence, through their sacrifice.
Stopping for a moment to reflect on Memorial Day, I experience a patriotism that is often lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life. Sometimes we all lose sight of the freedoms which we experience every day as an American, many of which are not experienced in other countries of this world. In an age where politics have divided this country so fiercely, let Memorial Day be a holiday that allows every American to feel proud knowing that others have given themselves in the hopes of making our lives better.
Reflecting on those whom I known to have made this sacrifice, I remember a young man who gave his life in the service of his country. In fact, for all of those who graduated from Boyertown in 2005 next to me, they all remember this man in one form or another. For those who served beside him, he was known as PVT Travis Zimmerman of the 101st Airborne Division. To many of us, he was a happy, adventurous, goofy kid who lived his life with a sense of humor most people only wished they had.
Shortly after we had graduated on that rickety stage at the end of Bear Stadium, a dozen of us headed south of the border to Cancun for our Senior Week. For us, it served as one last hoo-rah before we dispersed throughout the globe in pursuit of our own goals. We experienced many things in that sinful town, many of which I do not even remember or wish to remember. However, I cannot remember a single moment when Travis and his friends were not smiling in some context of the word. Sometimes, as he retold the stories from the night previous, our jaws would drop in disbelief. Many of them, no doubt, could have been scenes in one of “The Hangover” movies. It was amazing that we returned home in relatively the same shape we left in. It was one of the best weeks of my entire life. That being said, the memories I made there, alongside my classmates, will continue to be the way that I remember Travis.
There are many times since our trip to Mexico that I pause and think about Travis and his sacrifice. I think about our vacation together and his stories. I think about his unit and how the loss of such a friendly guy affects them, even when they have long returned from their deployment. A Marine grunt myself, it would not be the first or last person I knew personally who had been killed in a combat zone. Nonetheless, Travis holds a lasting place in my being. He will remain in my thoughts from time to time when I reflect on those who have been laid to rest as a result of their chosen profession.
So, as I pluck a hot dog from the grill and grab a ice cold brew, I will remember men like Travis, who paid the price for our freedom, which allows us to enjoy the parades and fireworks in relative safety with our loved ones. Let us not forget these brave souls, who picked up their rifles in defense of freedom, and who did not later get to enjoy the same freedoms they so fervently fought for. Take a moment during your celebration to remember someone like Travis, who sacrificed on your behalf.
Arriba- la rosa, Travis.
2005 Class President