Memorial Day

So we’re back in the states (just barely, we live in Hawaii, and many would argue the validity of Hawaii’s state status but I’ll save that for another day). I’m still out of sorts, beyond jet lagged but it’s Memorial Day here.

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A day we set aside to recognize those who served in our armed forces and gave the ultimate sacrifice. Today I participated in the annual Lantern Floating ceremony at Ala Moana Beach Park. This is held on Memorial Day but the lanterns symbolize much more than our soldiers to encompass all lost loved ones. Ten of thousands of people gather together in remembrance of friends, family, and loved ones.

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Our family came together to celebrate and remember my grandmother who passed away last year. As somber as this event was, I can’t help but focus on an altercation between two guys. Altercation is probably too strong of a word. I may not have witnessed the entire confrontation but a taller Caucasian man was visibly upset and yelling at a smaller stalky Asian man who looked more embarrassed at the scene than anything. My mom yelled ‘hey’ or something or another to break the tension and keep things focused on why we’re really here. It was a short disturbance and will probably slip most of our minds in the near future.

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I’m hindsight though, I wish I had my mother’s instinct to speak up. It may not seem like much- with an estimated 50,000 people compacted into a little more than half a mile of shoreline- but I think sometimes it all we need. In the digital age of viral videos and our worst moments of humanity recorded and replayed, I think we lose ourselves in the pack. We lose ourselves, our voices, our morals, our guiding principles, and we become passive spectators. The beach was more than crowded. It was hectic, it was claustrophobic, and everyone was rushing to the water or trying to head out. At least fifty of us witnessed this and no one really said a thing.

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It seemed clear that the taller man was out of line and causing a scene. The other man with his family no less was non-confrontational. But what if it had escalated? At what point would someone have stepped in? I couldn’t be prouder of my mother in that moment. She’s your typical Asian woman who probably would have gotten annihilated had she physically stepped in but I have no doubt that she would have. Sometimes all it takes is one person, one word, one small act to change a situation. I hope to do that one day.

She’ll probably want to kill me for posting this (she’s one of the handful of my followers) so thank you for sparing me mother. But I just wanted you and whoever else is reading this to know that not all heroes are men and women in uniform or commit huge acts of bravery or sacrifice. Yes, we honor them on this Memorial Day but if it’s not too much I’d like us to recognize the living heroes too and that includes you.

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