There is no denying the resemblance.

Though separated by 60 years, the similarity in dedication to family and country is as pronounced as the distinct yet different military uniforms they proudly wear.

My Dad, Larry, was a 13-year Marine Corps veteran who fought on Iwo Jima and in Korea. He has been gone many years now.

My nephew, Robert “Budski” Flores, is in the sixth year of his U.S. Navy career with the Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron Four Zero.

Grandfather and grandson. Separated by many years, wars and life experiences, yet their military service blends them together with their handsome characteristics, distinct Flores physical attributes and obvious pride in service to our country.

The difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day has been pointed out to me. Memorial Day honors those who died in military service. Veterans Day celebrates the service of all military veterans. I am the most unworthy person to draw this distinction.

With total respect for both, on this Memorial Day, the recent Bakersfield Hometown Heroes Banner program blends the two days for me. The event honored active duty personnel by displaying banners with their photos at the Amtrak station on Truxtun Avenue.

These are beautiful pictures of handsome young men and women who honor our country and their families by their service to defending freedom. My nephew Budski, Navy Second Class Petty Officer, is one of those to be displayed.

If you go there any day of the week, you will likely see proud families gathered around the banners of their brother, sister, or other family member, or friend, paying homage to those in service who are deeply missed and many miles away in service to our country.

It is impossible for me to look at my nephew Budski in his Navy uniform without thinking of my Dad in his Marine Corps uniform, fighting in that epic military campaign against the Imperial Army of Japan in early 1945. Many historians describe Iwo Jima as the bloodiest fighting of World War II. As with many veterans of that era, my Dad never spoke of his war time experiences.

My 32-year-young nephew is with the Naval Tactical Helicopter HSN-40 Squadron, which trains pilots and aircrew from around the globe.

For me, seeing Budski in his Navy uniform honors his grandfather and all veterans who have gone before him and will come after him. Without exception, every time I see a photo of my Dad in uniform, it is Memorial Day for me. And every time I see a photo of Budski, I think of my Dad. Right or wrong, that is how my feeble mind blends Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

I asked Budski’s father Robert, my brother, how he felt at the Hometown Heroes Banner ceremony when the photos were officially revealed. He didn’t have the words. “I just teared up with emotion,” he said. Many other family members at the event must have felt the same.

I am sharing with you an abbreviated, 1864 letter from President Abraham Lincoln to a Mrs. Bixby, who lost several sons in the Civil War. On this Memorial Day, I feel this beautiful tribute remains significant and meaningful to all who have lost loved ones in defending our freedom.

“Dear Madam,

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

A. Lincoln.”

On this Memorial Day, I know I am not alone in feeling pride in my Dad’s service to our country, nor am I alone in desperately missing a loved family member now gone or away in service. Memorial Day, Veterans Day or any day of the week, we should honor them all … all the time.

Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at floressteve32@yahoo.com. His work appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.

 

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