As I sit here in front of my laptop, I started to think to myself how long it took me to write this post. Knowing this is personal and very close to my heart. The journey has been long and it hurts the same. Time has not healed my wounds, but only deepened them. However, traveling this journey I have gained more friends and colleagues to help me during my time of sadness and grief. Memorial Day Weekend has became a holiday that really hits close to home since my dad was a decorated Vietnam Veteran and helped countless veterans in so many ways from counseling to benefits. Now, I feel like I have to continue his legacy some kind of way.
The Alabama National Cemetery is the final resting place for 3,400 veterans including my dad. It is located in Montevello, Ala off Highway 119. It has been to be one of the beautiful, well kept cemeteries that I ever visited. I visit quite often to sit and talk to my dad and honor our fellow veterans. To be honest, I never knew it existed until we were planning my dad’ss funeral and his final wishes was to be buried with his soldiers. Even though, it broke my heart knowing he was 45 minutes away from me. I knew how much he loved his military family and serving our country. I did not expect that my tragedy helped me realize that I was not alone and we (military families) will always be there for each other.
One of my friendships that developed was with Victoria Jackson. We have quite a history because I was her boys’ occupational therapist a couple of years ago and I knew her via working with Birmingham News. A couple of months before my dad took his last breathe, Victoria lost her husband and the father of her children. I did not really make a connection until I started counseling at the Amelia Center with my daughter. I saw a picture of her and her boys on the wall then I realized that her husband had passed, but I did not expect to see her at the cemetery. We stood together at the program and I also witnessed her first reaction visiting her husband. It was overwhelming and emotional at the same time. I knew how she felt, I knew the pain, and I knew the feeling of missing someone so much that it hurts. As I turned around, I saw my sweet girl sitting at the headstone of grandfather and just crying. She misses him so much as do I. I turned around again to watch her boys place a rosary on their father’s tombstone. I wanted to be there so bad for them but it was hard because I was so much in my own grief and missing my dad. After the emotional moment, we decided to have lunch together to reflect on the day. We realize that both of us being there for each other got us through the day. So, we decided to make it a yearly thing for us to be together on Memorial Day. The bond has been developed during our life changing event.
So, Memorial Day weekend has been a personal holiday for me and in honor of my dad, I give back using my talents are a photographer. I attend as many services that I can to honor the fallen and remembering the veterans that have fought so hard for this country. It is not just walking around the streets and capturing moments. It is me capturing emotions of people like me on this day. So, when you see a veteran, make sure you tell them thank you. I wish I could tell my dad because I have a better understanding.
If you ever get a chance, please take the time to visit the Alabama National Cemetery . Leave a penny on the headstone to let the family know you visited their love one. If you do visit, please leave one for my dad too.
Until next time….