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Memorial Day at the USS Midway Museum

June 1, 2011

Another Memorial Day Weekend has already come and gone; far to fast if you ask me. The weather was so beautiful on Monday that I’m sure many in the San Diego area were bustling with friends and family members, enjoying a meal and each other’s company. For me personally, I have a lot of memories attached to Memorial Day weekend. When I reflect on my Memorial Days past, I instantly think of Greers Ferry Lake. Greers Ferry is a big, beautiful lake near the small town where I grew up. This is where my family spent many of our Memorial Day weekends. I can almost feel the coarse sand on my bare feet as I sit on a concrete picnic table, eating my packed lunch under the shade of a pine tree, just thinking of it. I can see my kid-self enjoying a sandwich and a juice box as I listen to the faint shrills of daring water skiers cascading through the wakes of passing motorboats.

I’m fortunate to have so many great memories attached to our recent national holiday, but I was given a new memory this past weekend while volunteering at the Midway Museum. First off, I have to say that if you haven’t been to the museum, it is well worth a visit. The Midway is an absolute gem that is exceptionally well maintained by a happy and cheerful staff of volunteers. After visiting, I’m really not surprised by how happy they are. Being surrounded by a rich history and having the opportunity to share that history with the community must be a rewarding experience. Helping the staff with Legacy Week, their Memorial Day Weekend event, was a fantastic experience that gave me another warm lasting Memorial Day memory. I would certainly be more than happy to help them again someday.

Helping the museum during Legacy Week this year, took on more personal significance for me than I had originally expected. With the cooperative weather and nice long weekend at the crest of spring, it is almost too easy to forget why there is a Memorial Day. This year, I can say for certain that the reason and meaning was not lost on me. This year, I stood on the flight deck of the USS Midway next to Sergeant Major William McLeroy, an Iraq War veteran and America’s first amputee professional firefighter. During the ceremony, the Sergeant Major, a youth from the audience and I took a wreath and gracefully pitched it over the side of the ship into the ocean. After the wreath had splashed down into the sea, the Sergeant Major knelt quietly. I took a moment to reflect on why I was standing there. It was only a brief period but during that moment of somber contemplation, I can tell you that I certainly wasn’t thinking about beaches, water skiers or picnics.

If you or someone you know is interested, the Midway Museum has staff-volunteer coordinators that are very helpful. As of early this week, the museum had a posting on

– James Lee

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