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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day

Yesterday was Memorial Day. Wow. What a difference from this year versus every other Memorial Day I have had in the 29 years before.

We have always stopped to think about the Fallen, since I can remember. We knew that people died for our freedoms. We were brought up that way. My Grandpa I is a WWII vet, and my Uncle a Vietnam Vet. We knew what they fought for, although I must admit until being completely submerged in to Military Life, I never quite understood what all that meant, even with my brother in the Navy. It was being submerged as a military wife that made me realize all the sacrifices that ALL soldiers and their families make, even without dying.

This one was SO different. Of course it was. How could it not be? The one Memorial Day weekend that I did have with Matt was also a bit different in a way too. He pushed the realization of this and of remembering even more than I ever had known. We got up early and we went to the zoo that Sunday. I love the zoo. We walked around and had a nice day, but we also talked about his friends that had fallen. How many people that he went to school with, was deployed with, had known in one way or another, had fallen. How horrible for them. How horrible for their families. How thankful we were for them and for their sacrifice. However, it didn't cross our mind that this could EVER be us. And now it is...

I didn't go to any Memorial Day ceremonies yesterday, and didn't plan to, although I would have liked to, but believe it or not, I didn't think about it. I didn't even think about the ceremonies that were here, on post or in local communities. I was angry at myself for booking the "cheaper" ticket to leave on Saturday instead of staying for the ceremony at the cemetary where Matt is laid to rest. I was just pouting and being a selfish griever. "His" ceremony was the only one I could think about. But, once again, everything happens for a reason.

Sunday night, I began quietly contemplating the changes in my life. When I was getting the flag, as it had to be just perfect, I realized that I am actually living the life of someone who has sacrificed so much for our country. Our family has sacrificed so much for our country. Our friends have also sacrificed so much for our country. And it just ripples down the line. It is amazing to think that probably every person, when they think of it, knows someone who has sacrificed over time for our country. Sometimes it hits closer than others, but everyone has sacrificed. You just never think it is going to hit "this close to home". And, I am not the only one. There are so many families out there where this hit "close to home". I am so thankful for everyone one of their service members, and also for every one of the families.

As I am walking around with the flagpole in my cart, as well as the sand and concrete, I find myself leaving this cart at the checkout and going for another. Next thing I know, I have a basket full of red, white and blue flowers, and a brick. What in the heck do I think I am going to do with this? I have never "built" anything like this. What in the heck am I getting myself in to? What if it is a complete failure? I don't think I can do anything tomorrow other than sulk, cry, and feel sorry for myself that my soldier died. My husband died. I tell the clerk I would like 100 bricks (for what? I am not quite sure, but I suppose I had an idea in my head at that time). Sometimes when I am numb, I just go through the motions.

While I was in Utah visiting his family and going to his beautiful sister and new brother in law's wedding, my flag was blown down by the storm. Again. (but caught by some wire I rigged up, so it never fell to the ground.) I couldn't bear the thought of having a Memorial Day without a flag, or even moreso, being a Gold Star Wife and not having a flag on Memorial Day. One of our wonderful UT PGR members reached out and got me in contact with a TN PGR member who came to ensure that I was able to get a flag up for Memorial Day. Honestly- I canNOT say enough about the PGR. Whenever you see them, please thank them for what they do for the Gold Star Families. It is unbelieveable how someone so unknown at one point can truly become some of your biggest support. I have a very hard time asking for help when I need it, so the fact that he reached out means the world to me. I had the flag up already, but it felt so nice to have someone come along and look at what I had done, and validate for lack of a better word, what I was doing, and that I was doing it well. And for someone (or several someones) just to care that this part was taken care of.

Yesterday, I had an incredibly emotional day. I swelled with pride when I saw the American flag outside my front door that I had put up the night before. I began working with the brick to figure out "what I was supposed to do with it". I cried as I dug, and all the neighbors could see. I became angry that all the neighbors could see me cry, and that they were driving by with boats, and I could smell their grills, I could hear music. I was happy to believe that we live in a country where we can recognize the sacrifice of our fallen, but then also be happy that because of them, we can be free and CELEBRATE it, and ENJOY our days no matter how we like. I was joyful at the project that was coming together in front of me. I was happy that I actually KNEW Matt was with me this entire time, helping me, and healing me at that moment as I put this together. He and I were working together again.

Look what this turned in to? From start to finish, it took about 24 hours.

Phase One: The flag pole post that I dug and made to hold his flag Sunday night. This will be here forever, I believe. I love that it is anonymous, so it can apply to all of the fallen soldiers. Note the Fallen Soldier Cross in the center of the heart (helmet, rifle, boot).

Phase Two: At this point, I had an idea of what I was going to make, and also that I needed more brick!

Phase Three: The finished product. I am hoping to get better pictures from April that can capture the full size of it and still show the detail. It was absolutely stunning at half mast, and so beautiful fully raised!

It is a beautiful tribute to my husband, and every other fallen soldier, and also for the pride that I have in our country. I am so proud of myself, and definitely feel the most pride for this than I have for any other project I have done. I was telling my Daddy today that I was proud of it, that it was beautiful and it wasn't something to be used for function. How wrong I was, now that I think about it. It absolutely has the function of honoring Matt, the other fallen, and our country. It has the MOST meaningful function of any other project, and THAT is why I am so proud! And I know Matt was with me all day long. I know that he is absolutely beaming at me for this one. I can see him: "Look guys, that's MY wife". :) And it makes me Smile, for him, because I know he was helping me, and I have found the answer to my question- "Are you proud of me?"

(After I published this, look at what the skies did? Rainbows and Beautiful Skies let us know he is "here")


  1. Awesome, Tiff! Love what you created... and I know Matt was over your shoulder the entire time helping and guiding!

  2. You were on my heart the entire weekend. Matt must be so very proud of his amazing wife!

  3. I think it's Beautiful & so amazing! Thank you for sharing it with everyone. I Thank you & your husband for his sacrifice & I hope you have many more times when a project just hits you because you did a wonderful job.

    God Bless you & Keep you.