When I think about Memorial Day in our community, I remember my childhood days seeing active and former military personnel salute the flag at the resounding, opening chords of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Even as a little kid, that moment made me stand tall and proud. Not much has changed since then.
If military veterans were present, they stood at salute. Those who weren’t veterans placed their right hand over their heart, their gesture of thanks as a member of a grateful nation to those who did serve — an act of reverence for hard won freedoms dating back to the Revolutionary War. This nation has a long legacy of patriotism and we display it with pride. Not much has changed since then.
Sometimes my folks took me to a local gathering for a flag-raising ceremony and we placed floral tributes and small flags on the graves of those who served our nation. Many of those graves sheltered the remains of those lost in battle or veterans who returned and tried to re-create a life of normalcy among the rest of us who got our war news from the newspapers, television or word around town that we lost “a local boy” or — as in military combat in Afghanistan and Iraq — “a local girl.” Some took their memories to their graves. Not much has changed since then.
Patriotism is much more than “amber waves of grain” or showing up at the voting booth during an election year. It is not just about flag waving or placing small flags on graves. It is about extending our gratitude to those who served far beyond these symbolic acts. It is remembering to respectfully acknowledge and honor those who protected our right to freedom.
As our history reminds us, we gained and endured our freedom at the cost of those lives lost in battle. Call it liberty, call it freedom, call it Memorial Day or Independence Day. It is what this community does best — it remembers, it honors, it appreciates those who sacrificed so we may express our right to call ourselves patriots. Not much has changed since then.
As part of our commitment to community action, we collect used cell phones around town for our Cell Phones for Soldiers project. The phones provide prepaid calling cards for all military personnel serving abroad. To date, we can proudly state that Messinger Mortuaries, as the exclusive representative among funeral homes in Gila and Maricopa counties, has collected in excess of 6,100 cell phones since May 2010. It is small measure for their selfless acts of sacrifice. Please join us by dropping off used cell phones at our location, 901 S. Westerly Road. Additional drop-off boxes are at the VFW/American Legion, 709 E. Hwy. 260; Vita-Mart in the Twin Pines Shopping Center; H&R Block in the Bashas’ shopping center (Payson Village); the Home Design Center in the old Foxworth building, south of Walmart; the new O’Reilly Auto Parts on Hwy. 87; and the Payson Roundup, 708 N. Beeline.
Dedication to community action is what makes the folks in Payson and the Rim Country so great. Remember when you see a parade on Main Street or spend time at the local VFW/Legion Hall, that each veteran you salute or see knows what freedom is all about. They understand it for they lived it, sacrificed for it, taught its meaning to their children and supported those of us who are still learning about its principles. That is what patriotism is all about. Not much has changed for me since my folks took me to my first Memorial Day parade. Deep down, the important things never really change. Now, I just understand and appreciate more acutely the meaning of sacrifice.
If you would like to participate or learn more about this project, or how you may apply for prepaid calling cards for military personnel serving abroad, Steve Christensen, Scott Dryer or Mark Waldrop may be reached at Messinger Payson Funeral Home, (928) 474-2800.