Memorial Day is a time to honor huge sacrifices made for the greater good by people in our lives and in our world. The focus is on our military veterans, and that certainly was the case this morning when I shot photos at the Kearney Cemetery program.

However, visiting any cemetery also is a time to remember “average folks” who contributed to good causes in their own, smaller ways.

Raising children, building a main street business, creating a sustainable farm or ranch, or being of service to your community, school or professional organization are big accomplishments made up of millions of little things done day to day, year to year. There are so many of those little things that they generally go unnoticed.

In recent years, Americans have done a much better job of thanking veterans and those currently in the military.

I’ve been on Buffalo County Hero Flights with groups of World War II and Korean War veterans. When I asked them at the end of their few days in Washington, D.C., what impressed them most, many talked about the war memorials. However, all of them said how much it meant to them to have people, especially children, come up to them, shake their hands and thank them for their service.

As I was leaving the cemetery this morning, I noticed an elderly woman wearing a yellow coat who was tending a small section of the cemetery like it was her special garden of military headstones. She went from one stone to the next with a hand-held broom removing the dust, grass clippings, fallen leaves and other debris from the base and top of each.


When I got a little closer to her, I noticed she was doing this despite having one arm in a sling.

“I’m just cleaning up my neighborhood,” she told me, after pointing out the headstone with her late husband’s name on it.

I didn’t ask how often she comes to that patch of cemetery with her broom in hand, but I’m certain she’s there every Memorial Day.

Her dedication in making that little part of the world a little nicer as a gift to her husband and some other veterans made me think about how important little acts of kindness and support have been to me.

Nothing in my professional career has meant more to me than words of encouragement from people whose opinion I highly value.

Most such words have come from my Nebraska Press Women and National Federation of Press Women mentors, colleagues and friends. A note of thanks, a “how are you doing?” at a busy, stressful time or a “well done” works just as well as a brush to sweep away a burden or a cloud.

I’ll use the image of the woman in the yellow coat as a reminder to do better in returning such favors.