Originally written 5/23/2014. It’s been almost nine years now. Matt is Never Forgotten
When I was a kid, I was a “June Bug” in the Girl Scouts. I remember on a Memorial Day we put flags on the grave stones of the veterans. I had no idea what the fuss was all about, all the flags everywhere, and a day off that, for me, marked the beginning of summer. Really the holiday, throughout the years, sadly, hasn’t meant that much to me. Not until almost 3 years ago when I got the call that my nephew Matt, who was serving in the Navy as a linguistic interpreter, had been lost at sea. There was a search for him for a few days and then all hope for his return to us was lost and we were left with just our memories of a boy who turned into a man and followed hard his passion to serve our country.
I didn’t get to see Matt a whole lot throughout the years. He lived in another state. On an average, I saw him once or twice a year, but that kid was always the sweetest to me. He always greeted me with a hug and excitement to see me, and when our time together passed, he would always give me a warm hug and say, “I love you, Aunt Janet.”
I have many fond memories of him. He was the cutest ring bearer in our wedding. One time during a winter storm, my brother brought him and his sister to our duplex and sledded in front of my house, just because in the the south, where he lived, there wasn’t enough snow to sled like we always got to do as kids. We went camping together in family camp outs, and there was Christmas time eating goodies and playing games with Great Grandpa.
The last time I saw Matt was at the celebration of my parents 50th anniversary. He was excited about his first time out to sea, in the Navy. When we had to leave to go home, he made a point to get to me and give me a big hug, and as always he said, ” I love you , Aunt Janet.”
It was surreal going to his military funeral. It was the first military funeral I had ever attended. We arrived and the Freedom Riders were there, because of a threat of the possibility of Westboro Baptist showing up. When the family walked in they representatives of the Navy saluted us, and then the 21 gun salute and the sounding of taps all that in the memory of a someone I think the most of as a kid with a big smile, blue eyes, and a warm hug.
This will mark the second Memorial Day since we have lost Matt. The meaning of the day has changed a lot for me. Now one of the white memorial stones represents someone I love, and the day of remembering has went from an excuse to barbeque to another day, like his birthday and the day he died, that sticks out as a reminder that he is gone. Now the statement, “Freedom is not Free” means a lot to me, and when I see a young man or woman in their uniform I appreciate the sacrifice they are making in putting their life on the line for my freedom.
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” was the verse that was emphasized at his funeral. It is so true. Matt loved his family. He loved his friends. He loved his country, and most important, he loved his God. Knowing this gives me hope that He is waiting for me to finish my race here on earth, and when I finally make it home to heaven, he will be waiting there with that same big hug and greeting, and once again I will hear him say, “I love you , Aunt Janet.” In the meantime, know I will never forget you Matt. You are in my heart forever, and I love you too.