A U.S. flag waves in the evening sun outside of a Scripps Ranch home. Many residents, military and civilians, alike, pay respect to fallen heroes through symbolic gestures such as these. (photo by Cynthia Kurose)
A Day of Remembrance
May 28, 2018 will mark the 150th celebration of Memorial Day in the United States. The focus on the occasion is as varied as the geography of our country. With San Diego being a community heavily influenced by military, Scripps Ranch residents were asked to offer their thoughts about the true meaning of the occasion.
When faced with the question “What does Memorial Day mean to you?,” local resident Ned Lester responded, “To me, it is a time we need to stop and think we owe a whole lot to a whole lot of people, in the past and the present, who are permitting us to sit here and have a Memorial Day, and have full freedom and full access to liberties, justice and a constitutional way of life.”
As a retired Navy commander and one who saw action in the skies over Vietnam, Lester knows first-hand what it means to lose lives during combat. Commander Lester painfully recounted his emotions when finding out one of their reconnaissance planes, with a crew of four, had been shot down and was never recovered.
A sobering reminder of the rigors of war was also expressed by local Navy veteran couple Larry and Shavaun Roberts, who recently moved back to Scripps Ranch.
Shavaun Roberts pensively reflected on the meaning of Memorial Day.
“I feel blessed at having so many before us who have made that sacrifice,” she said.
She explained how humbling it is to be the daughter of a military veteran father and the mother of two sons who have chosen a military life knowing, in her words, that “they might die” for their country. She served as a Navy nurse from 1982 to 1991, and met her husband while stationed on the island of Guam.
Doctor Larry Roberts mused on the question of what the upcoming holiday means to him before answering, “one day in no way honors those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”
He served from 1978 to 2003 as a naval surgeon specializing in trauma. His first war time engagement was during the first Persian Gulf War, where his medical team quickly recognized they were being supplied with outdated equipment from the Vietnam War era that had ended over a decade and a half earlier. Congress responded by mandating the medical departments of the three military branches be brought up to speed with current medical equipment and technology.
Larry Roberts was appointed as the Navy trauma lead and was involved in building the infrastructure for the next combat casualty situation. By the time the infrastructure he had helped to develop was ready to be deployed in combat, however, his time in the Navy was coming to an end.
“I would have loved to help, to be on the front lines using the things we had developed, but I was due to retire,” he said. “The only gratification is that I got a lot of feedback about how well things had worked. The remarkable success – of saving lives and decreasing deaths on the battlefield – was night and day compared to any previous war. A lot of people that would have died in previous wars, lived.”
The Roberts recounted their time living in Virginia and the symbolic, emotional experiences they had surrounding Memorial Day.
“We’ve been to Arlington (National Cemetery) numerous times. On Memorial Day, that’s such an emotional experience to go there and see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” Shavaun Roberts said. “And seeing the acres upon acres of graves is just mind boggling to think of how many have sacrificed.”
Stories like those shared by our veteran neighbors are a sobering reminder about what Memorial Day is all about. Not just a day off work, or a day to take advantage of retail sales, but to take a moment to think about and honor our fallen who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and for our freedoms.
In 1868, the first celebration of Memorial Day was appropriately called “Decoration Day” and involved the placement of flowers on the graves of the fallen Civil War soldiers, both Union and Confederate. Today, we give thanks to all our fallen warriors through parades, prayer vigils and personal reflection.
John Lamar is a Scripps Ranch resident who served in the United States Marine Corps aboard the USS Constellation in Vietnam. He is a retired construction inspector, father of six and grandfather of 15. He spends his free time reading, writing and enjoying quality time with family.