ESCANABA - This is a landmark Memorial Day weekend for my family.
Our youngest daughter, Carolyn, just recently graduated from college and youngest son, Tony, is graduating tonight from Escanaba High School. Tony is the last of our five children to celebrate the completion of his basic education and begin the life of an adult. Carolyn has gone further in her educational pursuits than anyone else in the family. All of our children have done well in applying what they've learned to make a decent life for themselves.
I don't know if it is age or the fact that I've grown to better appreciate the life that God has given me. Whatever the reason, this Memorial Day is more special than any in the past.
Photo courtesy of Tim Kobasic
Carolyn Kobasic is shown during her recent graduation from college.
Years ago, the graduation ceremonies seemed to go on forever. Sitting in the stands of the gymnasium shoulder-to-shoulder with the gallery of families was uncomfortable and unusually hot.
Oh, it was novel to watch for and monitor your youngster as he or she proceeded through the pomp and circumstance of graduation, but what they had accomplished to date in their respective lives seemed somewhat minuscule when placed against the challenges that lay before them.
Today, however, I hang on every speech made and listen intently how the speakers feel about these kids and the passion from which they've worked to help them gain a foothold on their future.
I look over the uniform field of caps and gowns wondering how many of these boys and girls will pursue their special interest and make the world a better place than when I stood in their shoes.
Not all will experience the ultimate "American Dream," yet most will experience a quality of life second to none. It will come from living life in the U.P. and absorbing the heritage of the Yooper. I imagine some of the kids I'm watching don't feel special for being here, but they will as time moves on and they apply not only what they learned in school, but what they learned from being part of this unique culture.
It is a culture of innovation and hard work. Not many feel they have an entitlement to life and know that success is based on how they apply themselves, no matter what field of endeavor.
Some will move away, never to return either by want or need. Others who feel the need to relocate now will do so with the ultimate goal of settling back near home where they can enjoy the quality of life that is here in the Upper Peninsula.
I hope they never forget one of the fundamental reasons they have this opportunity. It comes from those like them who left our shores to serve our military and maintain the freedoms we have today.
It may be difficult for them to appreciate that Memorial Day started more than one-and-a-third centuries ago when it was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
Being born in 1953, I couldn't appreciate the significance of our world at war and the role my father and other relatives played in it until the conflicts of my era, especially Vietnam. It was then that a great many of graduating students packed up and shipped out shortly after ceremonies ended. Then they returned from war not so much as heroes, some even hiding the fact that they served in order to fend off ridicule for participating in what some felt was an illegal military action. It took decades to right the wrong and recognize the sacrifices they made to keep our freedom.
I'm sorry these kids had to realize how cruel this world can be when our country was once again attacked in a most deviant manner on Sept. 11, 2001 and how, very much like in the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941 that brought us into World War II, our enemies awakened a sleeping giant as we fought back against terrorists.
I hope these kids forever carry with them the pride of being a citizen in the United States of America. I hope they use their knowledge to provide new technology to improve life in a modern society that seems to be changing at a speed surpassing my comprehension.
I hope that the lives given by those who have served in the military, will make these young adults appreciate the world in general and fulfill their obligation to take care of it better than we did, and work to assure the opportunity to enjoy it, especially our natural resources, so they remain for the next generation.
Congrats kids, and thank you educators. And I especially want to thank those of you who served in the military and taught all of us the value of freedom.
Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.