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Honoring military veterans an emotional experience

by Diane Frederick

Memorial Day has taken on an even greater meaning for me as a time to honor those who have died for our country to make our freedom possible.

A few years ago, I visited Washington D.C. during the Memorial Day weekend. I’ll never forget it.

When I came out of the train elevator, the doors opened to the Rolling Thunder “Ride for Freedom” rally, thousands of motorcycles with veteran riders roaring through the streets in parade formation. The annual Memorial Day weekend event honors military veterans and members of the military missing in action.

These veterans and their bikes, decorated with flags and patriotic apparel, were holding out their hands so bystanders could reach out and touch them.

When I slapped my first biker’s hand and made contact, I thanked him for his service. In that split second of contact, I saw tears on his face, and I had tears on mine. It was then that I understood how important it is to honor vets, especially those who have died while serving their country.

As the bikers continued to roar by, the crowds clapped and cheered and slapped and thanked! It went on for hours.

What I experienced that day was as close to a secular “religious experience” as I’ll get. Click To Tweet

I was totally overwhelmed with my emotions. That was only the beginning of my day. I also visited the different war memorials and talked to veterans who were milling around the mall. My day ended with the National Memorial Day Concert on the capitol lawn where hundreds of thousands of people gathered to hear stories of veterans and listen to glorious patriotic music.

I know that what I experienced that day was as close to a secular “religious experience” as I’ll ever get. I treasure my memories but mostly, I’ll continue to thank the vets!

Diane Frederick of Casper, Wyoming, served two terms on the churchwide executive board of Women of the ELCA. This blog first ran in May 2012.


Photo by S Pakhrin | CC BY 2.o

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