IN OUR BACKYARD: May is for remembering

Submitted Photo The North Dakota Veterans Cemetery is filled with flowers on Memorial Day 2011.

May is a special month. As North Dakota transforms into a canvas of vibrant colors, blossoming flowers emerge from the ground and the trees unfurl their leaves, promising life anew. Yet, amidst this dance of nature’s renewal, there lingers a shadow, a reminder of sacrifice and loss that punctuates the arrival of Memorial Day.

For many, Memorial Day marks the onset of summer — a time for backyard barbecues and memories made with loved ones. And like countless others, my family once reveled in the simple joys of this long weekend, even amid our military ties. However, in 2011, the essence of Memorial Day shifted irrevocably for us, unveiling its profound significance in a way we could never have fathomed.

After serving three tours in Iraq, my younger brother Steven (a soldier in the U.S. Army), returned home in early 2010 to a joyous family eager to have him home again: for good this time. Each homecoming prior had been bittersweet, but a reassurance that he had emerged from the horrors of war. Yet, the invisible wounds of his service, the scars etched deep within his soul, proved insurmountable. In November 2010, he succumbed to the relentlessness of PTSD, leaving behind a wake of grief that no words could bridge. While he didn’t pass overseas, his combat wounds ultimately were the reason we lost him.

On Memorial Day 2011, our family found ourselves drawn to the hallowed grounds of the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, where he now rests. Not knowing what to expect, but hoping for some healing, we embarked on a pilgrimage of remembrance, perhaps seeking some peace amidst the sea of headstones of others who bore witness to valor and sacrifice, just as he did.

During those few hours what transcended was more than a mere ceremony; it was a testament to the spirit of a nation. Against the backdrop of a traditionally rainy Memorial Day, an impressive procession of motorcycles roared in unison, their rumble a solemn tribute to the fallen. Dignitaries spoke with reverence. Their words, a tapestry of honor, gratitude, and remembrance, paling in comparison to the emotion of the event itself.

Submitted Photo A cannon reverberates across North Dakota Veterans Cemetery and the prairie in 2011, calling people to remember and honor.

And then, as the bugle of TAPS pierced the silence, tears mingled with whispered prayers, a reminder of lives laid down in service to a cause greater than self. With hands over hearts or in salute, we witnessed the sacred dance of flags unfurling, a kaleidoscope of red, white, and blue fluttering in the breeze. And as the cannon volley reverberated across the prairie, a resolve stirred within — a pledge to honor, to remember, and to never forget.

This event has been an annual one for us with only a couple years not in attendance since 2011. Even amidst the celebration of a high school graduation this year, our mission remains unwavering — a tribute to a life cut short, and a legacy etched in sacrifice. Within the grounds of our nation’s cemeteries lies not only the hallowed remains of the fallen but also the echoes of their sacrifice — the true cost of freedom’s price paid. And though a single day of reflection seems inadequate, it is a testament — a homage to those who gave everything so that we may live freely.

So, dear reader, as May unfolds and Memorial Day beckons, may we stand united in remembrance and our hearts filled with gratitude for those who have paid the cost of freedom’s eternal flame. I invite you to seek out the ceremonies in your own communities, to bear witness and to practice remembrance. Or perhaps, join us at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery on Monday, May 27, as their ceremony begins at 12 noon CST.

Editor’s note: The Suicide and Crisis Hotline is 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.

Miranda Schuler is a long-time Minot resident and lifelong North Dakotan. In Our Backyard is her unique perspective on her travels, conversations and experiences.


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