Everyday is Memorial Day for many
EVERY evening at 10, beeps emanate from the top drawer of my dresser. The sound comes from a watch that has resided there for just over three years. The 20 beeps signify that another day is dawning in Iraq. The watch belonged to my son, Specialist Martin Kondor, who was killed in action with the Army on the morning of April 29, 2004, in the city of Baquba, north of Baghdad. Martin was 20 years old.I am grateful for the service of men like Mike Kondor's son and those who served with him. For those who would use that service and their deaths as a prop for a cause he did not agree with, it is hard to express my lack of respect for their conduct and their politics.
Since his death, three Memorial Days have come and gone, and while most people think of Memorial Day as just a day off from work, an occasion for a backyard cookout or a chance to score a good deal at a spectacular sale, for families like mine, Memorial Day has a more somber meaning. For us, the day is a further reminder that our loved one is gone forever.
It’s not that we need another reminder. Not a day goes by that we don’t think of Martin. My wife and I each carry one of his dog tags with us at all times. His picture hangs on the living room wall with those of his two brothers, and his bedroom has been left essentially as it was when he was alive. Two of the last packages we sent to him were returned after his death, and they’ve sat unopened in a corner of the room for the last three years.
As Martin’s buddies have completed their tours in Iraq, several of them have made the journey here to his hometown to pay their respects to us and to Martin. Tears always well up in my eyes as I watch each of them salute his gravesite. Others have written letters or e-mail messages, telephoned or sent packages or photos.
Last month, on April 29, the third anniversary of Martin’s death, we received an e-mail message from the man whose life our son had sworn to safeguard. He’s now a brigadier general, stationed in Baghdad this time on his second tour in Iraq. In his message, the general said: “None of us who served with your son will ever forget the day that he passed away. We will never forget him or his service to our nation. It was an honor to serve with your son.”
As I read those words, I realized that the greatest memorial of all for a fallen soldier lies not in the gravestones, bronze plaques or markers that display his name, but rather in the memories of his family and friends, and in the respect and admiration of his fellow soldiers and countrymen.