By Ross Markman
Last Monday was Memorial Day, and for the first time in a while, I thought about what that meant.
The past few years, while reporting for a suburban Philadelphia newspaper, I've covered parades and graveside ceremonies and even met a guy who claimed to be a descendant of Abraham Lincoln.
What I had never done was take a moment to realize how important this day is. Growing up in the home of the Liberty Bell doesn't really mean much when you can see it anytime you want.
We had off Monday, so I could have slept in.
But I wanted to see how Havre paid homage to our country's vets. I wanted to see how Havre did up Memorial Day.
I wasn't disappointed.
Dozens of veterans participated in Monday's tribute, most dressed in their military garb. An impressive spectacle.
More than 200 people assembled at the Hill County Courthouse. Again, a sight to see.
The weather was perfect.
The sun beamed through the cloudless, morning sky. And there was just enough breeze to allow the American flags lining the streets to dance across the landscape.
Standing there among the people, I began to think.
Could I, like a former colleague of mine in Pennsylvania, drop everything to join America's armed forces?
I'm not sure I have the you-know-whats.
But these guys standing proudly in their uniforms did. Hell, some didn't even have a choice.
In a conversation last week, Havre Mayor Bob Rice told me I'd be able to do it to fight. I can do anything I put my mind to, he said.
But still, I marvel at these men and women who defended and continue to defend our country and others.
I have to say thank you.
We should all say thank you.
We should appreciate members of the armed services and remember that they're doing a job that many of us can't or won't or are afraid to do.
When I was in high school, my dad used to say, "If you mess up and can't get into college, you're going into the service."
Yes, a threat.
And he was serious.
At the time, I was 5 foot 8, 125 pounds dripping wet. Not exactly the ideal build for combat.
So I graduated in the top 5 percent of my class. And I went to college.
Now 6 foot, 160 pounds, I may be fit for combat physically, but mentally I don't think I could hack it.
My former colleague, also a friend, e-mailed me the other day. He's completing basic training and now calls everyone "sir." More than anything, he's dying for a Philly cheesesteak.
I'm writing this column from the comfort of our Havre office. Nothing to worry about, except deadlines and bills and where my next story is coming from.
So I gave up two hours of my day off to haul a camera on my shoulder and notepad in my back pocket. My buddy, Kevin, is lugging around weaponry and negotiating obstacle courses and potentially preparing for Afghanistan.
Gets me thinking about how fortunate we are to be free.
Gets me thinking about all those who've made the supreme sacrifice.
Gets me thinking I should go visit the Liberty Bell for the gazillionth time and not just look at it, but soak it in.