My Dad was always a parade guy. He loved this country, fought for it. He counted every day as a gift after seeing death as a 20 year old, navigating daylight missions from England to Germany. He saw bombadiers jump out of planes, forgetting to reattach parachutes that the cramped quarters impeded. Watched planes draw fire, crash and burn. Saw B-17s fall out of the sky. Spent time waiting for other planes to return to the pop-up base in rural Britain. Many didn’t.
So Memorial Day was a chance to pay homage to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. He loved to wave a flag, say a prayer and then hunker down to a holiday barbecue. Honor and remembrance, followed by a celebration of his good fortune in returning home to a wonderful life.
This Memorial Day I will be joining most of my family at West Point for the graduation of my nephew, Andrew Joliat. Both of his Grandfathers logged time in the war, and both Grandfathers doubtless prayed that their sons and grandsons would grow up free from the harsh realities they dodged.
The world does not seem to be cooperating. Andrew was mindful of their service when he applied to the Military Academy his senior year. The photo atop this post is Andrew receiving the flag from Dad’s casket. Taps resonated as the flag and the duty passed to a new generation. It was a moment.
The four years have melted away.( though not for Andrew, I expect.) He is so young in that picture; now he is burnished by hours of academics and physical challenges. The Academy took a boy and made a man. He studied engineering, and will specialize in heavy artillery. Lucky boy- he is stationed in Hawaii. Who knows where else his 5 years will take him? Who can predict what he will see and do? How he will change? But if the Academy deems he is ready, he is ready. Myself, I cannot believe this little mischief maker has toed the line. when he was 7, he played the ponies on a family cruise and won a few hundred bucks. The disqualification due to his age about killed him.
Andrew is right in front in this picture, leading his Company. This was the alumni parade, part of the early festivities for the immediate family. Tomorrow is the final march- an amazing bookend to the first march the plebes made 47 months ago. Now they will break away, leaving the academic for the real world. I’m sure you can imagine the swirl of pride and worry the parents had four years ago, and will have again tomorrow.
Alas, our flight was cancelled, and this parade will not have our eyes upon it. In our place, Pat and Rachel will represent the Dahls: they were canceled 4 times, but persisted, found a flight to Hartford and will roll in at midnight or so. We will depart on our rescheduled flight at 6:00 AM, and join the festivities already in progress. Saturday will be the Commencement, Andrew’s commissioning ceremony and a family party. I love parties!
We are taking a regional jet, and I am a scaredy cat about flying…but I have to be brave in honor of Andrew. If I knew a cool Army slogan, I would insert it here.. Army Strong? Nope, I am not.. Tomorrow I will clutch Steve’s hand and confide that I hate to fly. He will laugh. I say this every flight.
I am thrilled that so many Joliats (20) are trekking to New York. We carry the pride of Grandpa Tom in our hearts. We will surround Andrew and his family with support. He now annexes to a bigger, harsher family -the military. His parents and sisters will miss him. Life shifts. Love abides. We’ll bring it. Share it.
The Military Academy throws BIG parades. Like Dad- we all love a parade. DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY. The official slogan of West Point. Here we come, New York.
In this special place, with family and memories, we will be especially grateful for those who gave so much. May we be worthy of their brave service. May God continue to bless the Joliats, just as he has blessed America.
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