Memorial Day 2014

More than 1,280,000 Americans have died in war since the American Revolutionary War. Memorial Day is a time to remember not only these soldiers, sailors, pilots, and marines, but also ALL American military personnel who have died while in service of their country.

Let’s start by clearly defining what Memorial Day is. I’ve heard many versions of what it is… I’ve even heard it confused with Veteran’s Day. Memorial Day is an American holiday used to remember the men and women who died while serving, while Veteran’s Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, living or dead. Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday during the month of May. Originating after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers (both sides!) who died during the Civil War, it was originally called Decoration Day. Traditionally folks put flowers and other decorations on soldiers’ graves. This was the start of Decoration Day.

Over time, the name changed from Decoration to Memorial. Then in 1967 it was officially changed to Memorial Day and also extended to recognize and honor all military men and women who died while serving (instead of just the Civil War). The holiday was celebrated on May 30th, but in 1968 Congress passed the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act,” and Memorial Day was one of the holidays moved from its traditional date to a specified Monday. This was done to make convenient three-day weekends.

Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. That said, the absolute definition seems to include anyone who dies during military service.

Because Memorial Day is the beginning of Summer, and most of the flag related holidays come after it, my family replaces our flag on the night before Memorial Day. Each year, we pull down and properly retire/dispose of our old flag and replace it with a brand new one. This way we will have a pretty flag for Memorial Day, Flag Day, Fourth of July, and Veteran’s Day…

Proper care of a U.S. flag is of utmost importance. For those of you who fly a flag, maybe you already know this part… Some of you may not be aware that there is actually a formal way to properly retire and dispose of an old and worn flag. I will discuss what the Ripley family does for this procedure. There are several options, including bringing your old flag to a local Boy Scout Troop, American Legion, or VFW office. However, we choose to burn the flag in our back yard. Any of these ways are valid. The one thing you MUST NEVER do is simply throw an old flag in the garbage!

We start by buying a high quality flag which will last for a year before it really starts to show signs of being worn and ready for disposal. On the evening before Memorial Day we dispose of last year’s flag. I picked this date, because it’s a great time to explain the importance of the flag to the children, and we can do so while going through our family ceremony.

Here’s our personal retirement ceremony in a nutshell:

1. While the flag is still hanging, call the group to attention, salute, place your hand over your heart, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States (originally composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892)

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

 

2. The leader says, “This flag has served its nation and our family well. It is worn to a condition which is not fit to be used to represent the United States of America. We are grateful for its symbolizing our great nation and we pay honor to this flag for the service it has rendered. We will now fold and dispose of this flag.”

3. Take the flag down and then properly fold it.

4. Move to the prepared fire and everyone salutes the flag one last time. The group holds their salute until the leader places it on the fire and then they all finish the salute with the leader’s final salute. The group remains standing reverently until the flag is completely consumed.

The last thought is… Remember that today is a special day and we should honor our fallen brothers and sisters. Spend at least a minute today to reflect quietly and feel sincere gratitude for all that our military has done in our name. Thank you for reading this, and thank you for listening to this patriot rant. I love you all.

-Vaughn “the patriot” Ripley

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Thanksgiving 2013

Many of my posts talk about being grateful and expressing gratitude for all of the things that you have in life. As a matter-of-fact, I have one article, healthywealthytribe.com/what-are-you-grateful-for, that is specifically written around this topic. Well, what better time to tackle gratitude again than on Thanksgiving Day?

Thanksgiving is a national holiday that was originally celebrated as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest. In the United States, it is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. More recently it is known as the holiday where you stuff your face with turkey (among other fatty foods) and watch football all day. I prefer to remember that it was (and is) a time to express thanks for EVERYTHING in our lives.

Many of us (me included) often feel worried about family events that will end with fighting and misery… Unfortunately, there are frequently practical brawls when we get estranged family members together. It is imperative that we find the good in our family and friends during these special holidays. Put your disagreements aside and love one another! You only have to do it once a year, people! If you are one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have any problems with family during these times than consider yourself lucky and disregard this paragraph… HA!

Regardless of what you believe or think, the name sums up this most excellent holiday. Thanksgiving is easily rearranged to “giving thanks.” If you dig, use this time to meditate briefly and concentrate on what’s important to you. Think about all of the fortunate things you have in your life. And, share your feelings and gratitude with those closest to you.

I’ve already mentioned my “thankful list” in that previous post, but I thought I would add to it a hair, and list it again as a reminder to myself… In no particular order, I am eternally grateful for:

  • Kristine
  • Trinity
  • Xander
  • Brothers and sisters
  • Moms and dads (yes, that is plural… HA!)
  • In-laws (all of them!)
  • My longevity and ability to outlive everyone’s expectations
  • Work (yep… I love it, and am grateful for it)
  • Hobbies and fun stuff
  • Home Sweet Home (shelter over my head)
  • Food on the dining room table (and in the fridge)
  • Five senses (fortunately I have all five at my disposal)
  • Arms and legs (not everyone is as lucky as me)
  • The sun (and the moon)
  • Computers
  • The snow
  • Four seasons
  • Social networks
  • My gift of writing
  • Internet access
  • Life coaches and mentors
  • Challenges (yes sir… Very grateful for these, because they help me grow!)
  • Decent brains
  • Music
  • Pets (dog, snake, fish, and even the cat)
  • Modern medical treatments and science
  • Filet mignon and lobster tail

What are you grateful for?

Enjoy yourself! Eat lots of food! And, most of all… Tell your friends and family that you are thankful for having them in your life!

I’m also thankful for you!

-Vaughn

p.s. I’d like to add one thing to my Thanksgiving Day prayer… “May the Dallas Cowboys get their proverbial butts kicked!” hee hee…

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What are You Grateful For

I know that this topic has been covered by most inspirational authors and in hundreds (maybe thousands) of books and magazine articles. Alas, I have my own take on it, and I wanted to share my belief about one of the strongest subjects I know about… Gratitude.

As you may know, I have thousands of things to be grateful for. All of us do. But, we rarely take the time during the day to think about those things, let alone focus and be thankful for them. About four years ago I discovered a way that I could make sure that I concentrate on the things most important to me on a daily basis. This powerful tool is actually just a simple rock. That’s right… I carefully selected a nice small stone from beside a creek and use it as my reminder of the things I should be thankful for. I call this tool my gratitude stone.

Gratitude Stone
There’s not really anything special about my gratitude stone. I did want it to be fairly smooth, so it doesn’t snag on my pants pocket. It was also important to have it be small, to avoid huge bulges in my pants (I have enough of those already – HA!). This stone also happens to be one of the things that I am grateful for.

You might be asking yourself how I use the stone… Well, let me enlighten you to my usage.

First off, I put the stone on my dresser at night with my wallet and Chap Stick. This way I remember to bring it with me every day. When I finish getting dressed in the morning, I pick up the rock and start my daily ritual. Before slipping it into my pocket, I spend about two minutes holding it, rubbing it, and thinking about the things I am grateful for. Some things (e.g. wife, kids, work, friends, and so on) come quickly and easily to me, so I focus on them first. After thinking about each of those things, I dig deeper into my imagination and try to come up with five more things that I might not have thought of without prying a little. And, I do more than simply say, I am grateful for yada… After choosing the topic to be thankful for, I then take it one step further and ask, “Why am I thankful for yada?”

This morning ritual is not the only time I thank the universe for the things I am so fortunate to have in my life. The reason I have the stone in my pocket is so that I will feel it throughout the day. Anytime I reach into my pocket to pull out keys, Chap Stick, or money I also find that wonderful trinket. Once I touch it, I spend a moment and rub it. During that time I quickly pop through my list of things I’m thankful for. It’s only for a moment, but I do this a dozen or more times each day. Then, at the end of my day, while I’m emptying my pockets, I do it again. So I probably spend ten to fifteen minutes (at a minimum) of every day focusing solely on the things that matter most to me.

Since you guys are all probably wondering what I think about when I rub my stone, I thought I would list out some of the things:

  • My wife
  • My kids
  • My brothers and sisters
  • My moms and dads (yes, that is plural… HA!)
  • My longevity and ability to outlive everyone’s expectations
  • Work (yep… I love it, and am grateful for it)
  • My hobbies and fun stuff
  • My home (shelter)
  • Food on my dining room table (and in the fridge)

After I finish with the easy list, I move on to the tougher to think of things like:

  • My five senses (fortunately I have all five at my disposal)
  • My arms and legs (not everyone is as lucky as me)
  • The sun (and the moon)
  • Computers
  • The snow
  • Four seasons
  • Social networks
  • My gift of writing
  • Internet access
  • Life coaches and mentors
  • Challenges (yes sir… Very grateful for these, because they help me grow!)

You get the picture. And, hopefully I have helped you realize that there are lots of wonderful things for you to be thankful for too.

Do you believe in gratitude? Please comment and let us know what you are thankful for. And, tell us if you use something like a gratitude stone to remind you of them.

Hopefully this was a post to remember… And, maybe even be grateful for.

I’m more grateful for you readers than you can imagine!

-Vaughn

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