30 May 2017

Remembering on Nantucket

The 2001 blockbuster, “Black Hawk Down” is an American War drama that chronicles the events of a true story – a 1993 battle in Mogadishu. Although the battle was showcased in the movie, it’s not something frequently discussed when revisiting the battles our country has fought.  Even though…even though…18 American soldiers DIED and 73 others were wounded in the fight. Josh Hartnett’s character in the movie, Matt Eversmann, says it best: “Nobody asks to be a hero, it just sometimes turns out that way.”
I had a sobering opportunity last week to spend time with a dear friend whose son is a Marine.  He was recently deployed to Australia and while she was with me he was given a short window of time to communicate with family members before being hustled off with his platoon into a 2 month “cone of silence.” The training and maneuvers he and other troops will be doing there are secret, dangerous and 100% to defend our safety. Sadly, because of the time difference, she missed his middle of the night call…her one opportunity to hear his voice for the next two months. She was heartsick. I could visibly see the pain and worry in her eyes. A worry that will only be assuaged when he’s finally home safe and sound. The silence she’ll hear in the coming months is the only assurance she’ll have that he’s ok…for now. I realized just how much gratitude we owe not only her son, but her, her husband and their other children for the enormous sacrifice being made on our behalf. And this is just one family – there are tens of thousands of others who are quietly serving our great country…hoping not to be a “hero.” In my book these entire families are already heroes.
This past weekend was FIGAWI on Nantucket. It’s an annual sailboat race from Hyannis to Nantucket that has turned into somewhat of a free-for-all party weekend.  MORE importantly, it was Memorial Day weekend. In recent years there’s been a genuine and united collaboration to “bring back Memorial Day” to the island. Even the FIGAWI organizers are making a contribution to Holidays for Heroes in an effort to keep our focus where it should be on this sacred holiday – on the men and women who died for our country. Picnics and parades create a festive atmosphere, but the reality is the nation should be sharing a collective moment of silence, reverence, gratitude. We owe our very lives to those who served and died.
There’s no shortage of ways to keep remembering and keep honoring on Nantucket. The Civil War Memorial on Upper Main is dedicated to the 74 Nantucket men who gave their lives serving Union forces. Milestone Rotary is dedicated to James Warren Coffin, a bronze star recipient killed during the Korean conflict. Even Nantucket Memorial Airport (ACK) is named in honor of the 11 Nantucketers who gave their lives in World War II.  There are multiple other plaques and memorials around the island honoring those who served and died.
The next time you’re driving up Main Street, landing at the airport or rounding the rotary, pause long enough to consider the local sacrifice, the national fallen and those currently serving our country so we can enjoy freedom. If your son, daughter, brother, sister or parent is currently serving or gave their life we humbly and gratefully say…
Thank you.

Shellie Dunlap

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