GUIZERIX: Carrying the weight of our fallen brethren beyond Memorial Day

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Last week, I had the privilege of witnessing one man’s act of thanks for the men and women who have given their lives for our freedom.

Tasked with covering the flag-placing event at the Vicksburg National Cemetery, I made my way down the winding path on the cemetery’s slope, ducking between the sweeping magnolia trees, my shoes quickly saturated with morning dew.

More than 150 people showed up to place flags on the 17,000 graves in the cemetery, including the staff of Bowmar Elementary School, a couple of local elected officials and more than a few families.

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However, about halfway down the steep path, I witnessed one of the most moving attendees of the flag-placing event hard at work. The man, whom I later discovered to be Joseph Quimby, was carrying dozens of flag bundles in his arms and even more in a rucksack on his back and wearing the letters “USMC” across his chest.

Quimby confirmed to me that he is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and that he and his wife, Holly, made it a point to bring their daughter and son out to the cemetery on Friday morning as part of the family’s Memorial Day observances.

For Quimby, it seemed as though the act of carrying flags in his backpack was a matter of convenience — the more he had on his person, the fewer trips he’d have to make back and forth from the flag pile.

But for me, the spectacle meant a little more than that. To see a veteran, who no doubt has paid his dues in serving his country, carry the physical weight of our country’s banner on his back was a sight to behold. And to see him doing so while actively honoring those who went long before him — well, I get a little choked up thinking about it.

As Memorial Day comes and goes each year, we’re faced with a higher tally of veterans in need. Whether they’re in need of stable housing, reliable mental health care, addiction recovery services or simply just a listening ear at the coffee shop, every American should pause and ask what they can do to make a veteran’s day just a little better.

I know I asked myself that question on Friday morning. Although I often joke that, in marrying a sailor, I’ve done my patriotic duty, I know there are times when I could be doing more for those who have served and those who are currently serving.

Whether you’re thinking of the old man with the Vietnam ballcap in line at the grocery store, or the young woman with a newly hollow facial expression who just returned home, take the time to thank a veteran every day. And do one better: Ask how you can help them.