Memorial Day Weekend from a Veteran's Point of ViewWhat comes to your mind when you think of Memorial Day Weekend?

If you’re like me, you’re excited about having an extra day off from work, grilling out with friends and family, and 18 (eh, more like 27 or 36) holes of golf.

To others, though, no celebrating will take place this weekend. To people like Gary Sox, this weekend is about honoring all Americans lost at war. I had the opportunity to visit with Gary, who is part of the Vietnam Veterans of America, a group that travels and displays the Michigan Vietnam Veteran Traveling Memorial. Quicken Loans invited the group to make a stop Thursday at the Compuware Building in downtown Detroit to help remind us all what Memorial Day truly signifies.

Gary was a member of the United States Marine Corps from 1964–68 and was in Vietnam for 10 months, from September of 1965 through June of 1966. As a Combat Engineer, Gary’s duties included blowing up caves and tunnels while also detonating mines and checking for booby traps. Instead of taking part in fun activities, Gary, as he does on all holidays, will use this weekend to honor those who served.

“For us, we don’t ever stop thinking about those that were in the service,” Gary said. “I always make it a part of each holiday to remember that I’m representing them because they are unable to be here to enjoy the holiday with us.”

“We volunteer and are all Vietnam veterans,” Gary said. “We welcome home veterans and thank them for their service and make sure they are doing alright with their medical and benefits.”

Along with the wall, the Missing Man Table is also a part of the presentation. The table represents all of the armed forces that are missing from the ranks (referred to as POWs and MIAs).

“It’s a way to help us remember those that were never brought home,” Gary said.

There are a variety of items placed on the table, all for different reasons.

• The white cloth symbolizes the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty.

• The single red rose in a vase reminds us of the life of each of the missing and their loved ones and friends who keep the faith awaiting answers.

• The vase is tied with a red ribbon symbolizing our continued determination to account for our missing.

• The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope, which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home away from their captors to the open arms of a grateful nation.

• A slice of lemon on the bread plate to remind us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land.

• A pinch of salt to symbolize the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers

• The bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country founded as one nation under God.

• The glass inverted symbolizes their inability to share this evening’s toast.

• The chair is empty – they are still missing.

During our conversation, Gary talked very passionately about what it means to him to be a part of the group. When he enlisted, Gary was just 19 years old. As a recent hire of Quicken Loans, the fact that stood out to me the most was that of the 2,654 names on the wall, when broken down by county, Wayne County’s total of 814 was 576 more than any other county in Michigan.

I really enjoyed my time talking with Gary and the energy he put forth in explaining everything. I’ll leave you with one final quote from him.

“It’s easy to get caught up having fun on the holidays. I even find myself doing that once in a while. But when you’re out having fun this weekend, take a second to remember and honor those that served.” – Gary Sox


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