Anita Griffin celebrates Memorial Day everday by volunteering near her husbands grave at Bay Pines

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Beyond the rows of flags, near families visiting graves to remember their loved ones, Anita Griffin feeds a complete stranger.

She's one of the many volunteers at Bay Pines VA Hospital in St. Petersburg, where on Memorial Day, not every veteran is able to attend celebrations.

Then again, Griffin remembers a time, long ago, when celebration was rare.

"They'd call them 'baby killers'. That was the biggest thing that really touched him," she said.

Her husband, Sgt. Roger James Griffin, fought in Vietnam. After losing one of his men, RJ swam under heavy enemy fire to retrieve him, earning RJ the Bronze Star Medal for Heroism.

The couple met after he returned and enjoyed 29 years of marriage, and planned their retirement together in a house on a lake.

"And then, just like that, it happened," Griffin said.

Suddenly, in September of 2009, RJ died of heart attack. He had asked to be buried beside other veterans at Bay Pines.

Every Memorial Day, bringing with her a note that says "I love you", Griffin visits her husband, leaves flowers and the note.

"The one thing I wanted to always keep was the connection with my husband," she said.

She decided, as in life, she would stay near him by volunteering 3 days a week, saying thank you by looking veterans in the eye the way so many never looked at her husband.

"Memorial Day is for those we have completely lost, but we have so many who are here, it's important that everyday we think of them," Griffin said.

In the days ahead, the Bay Pines VA hospital hallways will return to normal. The decorations will come down.

But Griffin will still be there.

For her, Memorial Day is everyday, because forgetting is impossible.


 

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