Memories of Memorial Day as a kid were neighborhood picnics, the end of school, and the opening of the city pool. But another distinct memory of Memorial Day has always stuck with me over the years. Each May, I used to help my uncle clean windows at his best friend’s house. I remember it being a very large stately home covered in ivy in an older neighborhood of my town. My uncle would clean the outside windows on a ladder and I would follow him inside the house from room to room cleaning the inside windows simultaneously. The house was filled with large overstuffed furniture, and a china closet filled with delicate glass figurines, but one room upstairs was always my favorite. It had several model airplanes hanging from the ceiling, a whole row of ancient-looking sports trophies, and blue ribbons displayed on the large wooden bookshelf overlooking a desk with a checkerboard and checkers ready to play.
This was Buddy’s room. My uncle’s best friend and neighbor growing up. Buddy was a fighter pilot killed thirty years earlier during the war, the same one my dad was in. The room was kept exactly how Buddy had left it. This was a very private memorial that only his family and a few others like myself who ventured in here for a few minutes once a year, could view. My uncle on the other side of the window would sometimes tell me a short story about Buddy that was often cut short with a quick wipe of a tear. Buddy’s family never wanted to be part of this club; none ever joined willingly. Membership was always thrust upon these Gold Star families who lost a family member in the military. It is important to recognize the freedoms we enjoy today were only made possible by the service men and women whose lives were cut short. As we begin to enjoy the summer weather, let us pause on more than just one day a year to remember those like Buddy Brown, who gave of themselves, so that we could have the freedom to enjoy it.