Remembering where we’ve been, those who paid the price

Tomorrow is Memorial Day 2020.

It has always been the day we celebrated in honor of Grandaddy and your great-grandfathers — extraordinary sacrifices of ordinary people. Of the families who have lost loved ones. We will once again share the stories of our family and friends; of the friends who grew up without fathers who were killed in World War II; of the uncles who liberated Auschwitz and came back to Owensboro to raise their families; of the Vietnam vets like Grandaddy who were spat upon and called baby killers by draft dodgers in their hometown whose parents “bought” their deferments. We will talk about Granny Castlen, who had four sons serving in Europe at one time; of Grandmother Castlen, who watched the nightly news and saw body bags of boys in Vietnam, wondering each night if her Joe was one of them.

We will give thanks for today’s generation of vets: those from Afghanistan and Iraq who have served deployment after deployment, only to be thrown back home and expected to return immediately to normalcy. And we will think about the Gold Star parents here in Greater Owensboro who have taken inconceivable tragedies and made indelible marks of hope and love on our community.

This year, the sacrifices seem more personal than ever. At this juncture in your life, I see clearly that your family members who poured themselves out did it for their country, for freedom, but also for you.

Last week, we traveled to Washington DC together to pack up your apartment and move you back home. The time in the car together reminded me of what I know. That you are an extraordinary person and that I love your company. And no matter how many amazing people you meet and can converse with, you will always be the little girl who loves her hometown, who loves what her country stands for and who can be just as downhome as her momma.

I know that this is not what you expected this time to look like. None of us did. None of us expected that you would work as hard as you did and celebrate graduation watching a 20-minute Facebook Live feed instead of a ceremony on the beautiful front lawn of your school. None of us expected any of this. But you haven’t complained. You and your friends are adapting and coming up with Plan Bs. You all understand that this is only a small sacrifice and an opportunity to do your part.