I’ve been posting (or at least linking to) “Honoring the Dead” just about every year since I wrote it in 2005.
My son is three times as old as he was then. One of the two wars going on when I wrote it is still ongoing. It has gone on for most of his twenty years of life.
Honoring the Dead: Memorial Day
by Steven Saus
The name stumbles from my tongue. Mashed consonants slide into a string of vowels – my mouth is confused. It is an Iraqi name, someone killed in the war.
A woman stands across from me. She has read the name of a dead Ohio soldier. Seven Iraqi names to each Ohioan – an attempt to give some perspective to the kill ratio. She is waiting as I fumble through the first of seven. Finally, I get to the age of death: 45.
A bit old for a soldier, I muse. Still, six more strange names to go. It is Memorial Day, and we are honoring the dead.
The second name is more familiar – Hassan Mohammed something. I breeze through it, cruising easily until I stop short at the age: seven.
Glance down the list quickly, check the rest of the ages. Five. Nine. Six. Eleven. Two.
My youngest son sits with his mother, bored but patient. She is praying, but he sees me looking and smiles at me. It’s a goofy grin under his tousled blond hair.
He, too, is seven.
I struggle through the rest of the names and ages. I wonder how alien, how strange my son’s name of “Christopher” would sound to them.
Later, I hug him, my little seven-year-old boy, and pray for the parents who can never hold their child again.
On Memorial Day, I remember, and pray never to forget.