A Memorial Day Story

Until December 1999, my family was pretty darn lucky.

Two of my grandfathers fought in and survived World War Two.  My dad was never drafted during Vietnam.  I don’t know this for absolute certain, but I suspect he avoided it because he was a college student during the early years of the conflict.  And then I was born.

All three of my mother’s brothers served in the armed forces during the period between Vietnam and the Gulf War.  All three are still living and breathing.

My first cousin went to West Point.  He fought in the Gulf War and came home to tell about it.  His two sisters married Air Force guys, Blackhawk helicopter pilots who also fought that war and came home to their families.

But in December 1999, there was a freak accident in Kuwait.  Mike Geragosian, husband of my cousin Dana and father to their toddlers Luke and Zack, was killed when the transport plane he was on missed the runway and crashed.

I held two-year-old Zack in my arms during his daddy’s graveside service.  He was quiet in my arms as he watched his mother weep when handed his flag.  He didn’t flinch during the 21-gun salute.  But when fighter jets roared over our heads, and a lone jet peeled off, straight up into the air, in what is called, simply, “Missing Man Formation,”  Zack excitedly pointed to the jets and began shouting, “Daddy!  Daddy!”

It was the saddest moment I’ve ever experienced.

But no sadness lasts forever.  Dana, Luke, and Zack built a beautiful life out of what remained of their tiny family.  And last year, Derek joined it.

It was the happiest wedding I’ve ever experienced.

And just last week, I got the happy news that Luke and Zack are going to have a little brother or sister.  They’re so excited they can’t see straight.

Finally, they’re having a happy Memorial Day.

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