I didn't even know it was there.
Not until I went to the Women's Lacrosse Tournament and was wandering down to the lower seats. And there it was. Cordoned off by a black chain, towards the bottom of Section 129. And it stopped me in my tracks.
The black chair, standing out from the sea of red that is the bowl of the stadium, with the all-too-familiar POW-MIA logo emblazoned on the chair back. And the same logo painted on the concourse behind it.
You are not forgotten.
It isn't the patriotic R helmets. It isn't flag waving for the TV cameras. It is a simple, strong statement that those who have served this country are appreciated. And more importantly, those who have not returned from that service are remembered and loved....always.
Every time I go to Washington, DC and see the Vietnam Memorial, I think, "There but for the grace of God..." That was my era, my war. It is my wall of 58,000 names of lost peers. I can recall vividly my freshman year. It was the year of the United States incursion into Cambodia and the resulting student protests across the country. It was Kent State, and the killing of four students on that campus. It was a very divided country and a very divided campus in New Brunswick. Service men and women, especially soldiers, were berated, ridiculed, and taunted. They were looked upon as evil, and the wounds were deep.
But more than a generation later, some of the wounds have healed, and there is, at least, a recognition that the soldiers, sailors, airmen and women, and marines are doing a job. The job of protecting us, our way of life, our freedom. They are the ones who protect our rights and give us the opportunity to have those protests. They are the heroes.
Seeing the chair of honor at High Point Solutions Stadium caught me off guard. But, at the same time, it didn't surprise me. It is something that has become a part of the culture and tradition at Rutgers, and I'm proud that it is.
So, as you celebrate this Memorial Day 2015, enjoy the barbecues, raise a few, and have fun. But take a minute...just 60 seconds...to think about why you're celebrating. And who made it possible.
National Park Service
From all of us at On the Banks, have a great holiday. God bless America!