By BOB URBAN

rurban@tnonline.com [1]

Memorial Day weekend is always special.

But John Greis helped make it more special than ever this year.

Army First Sergeant Greis has been one of my son, Mike's, best friends since they went to kindergarten together. It's a friendship that has remained strong for more than 35 years.

On Sunday, just as we were leaving my other son, Jim's house, to attend the Memorial Day services in Coaldale, Mike's cell phone rang.

It was John.

He had just returned home that morning after nine months in Afghanistan. He was back in Fort Campbell, Ky. where he is a member of the 101st. Airborne Div.

His timing couldn't have been better. What a gift for Memorial Day.

John is no stranger to combat. His stint in Afghanistan was his fourth deployment the other three being in Iraq. It's hard to believe that the little kid who used to hang out at our house in Pottstown, is now a leader of scores of soldiers.

We're all hoping that this was John's last tour of duty in a war zone. With four deployments he has certainly paid his dues.

John's next assignment will be as the Senior Military Instructor in the ROTC program at the University of Indiana. If those students turn out to be half the soldiers that First Sergeant Greis is, then they'll serve their country proud.

Welcome home, John. And thanks for all you have done.

No matter what town you live in or visit, Memorial Day services in each community are solemn occasions. Remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice is both a sad and proud moment. And nobody does Memorial Day better than the local communities within the TIMES NEWS area.

While there is plenty of room for reflection and patriotism, there's one thing that shouldn't filter into any Memorial Day service, and that's politics.

For one day in our lives, let's take a day off from politics and let's honor the real heroes in this country.

That's why I feel it was out of place and uncalled for when Coaldale Mayor Richard Corkery used his platform at the Coaldale services to deliver a political message make that a political endorsement.

It was in bad taste, and we hope the mayor realizes this and refrains from such actions on future Memorial Days.

I never got the officer's name. But some day I hope I get the opportunity to shake his hand and thank him.

My grandson, Sean James Urban, 21 months young, attended his first Memorial Day service Sunday in Coaldale. His mother and dad had him decked out in a T-shirt that proclaimed "Proud to be an American" along with a flag. He even wore red, white and blue sneakers.

As 21-month-olds have a tendency to do, Sean got a little tired of listening to the speeches, so my daughter-in-law, Thelma, took him for a walk around the perimeters of the service. He was more than happy to explore this previous unchartered territory.

While he was walking with his mother they came upon a Coaldale policeman, who excused himself and went into the borough hall, only to emerge again a minute later with a stuffed animal which he gave to Sean. Sean was thrilled, and the new stuffed red and white dog has already found a prominent place in his crib.

It was a nice gesture by the officer, one that made a little boy extremely happy.

An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which contradictory terms are combined to produce an epigrammatic effect.

I love oxymorons. They're one of my favorite parts of the English language.

Let me share a few with you, provided by a faithful reader who sent them along. Try these on for size.

1. Is it good ifa vacuum really sucks?

2. Why is the third hand on the watch called the second hand?

3. If a word is misspelled

in the dictionary, how would we ever know?

4. If Webster wrote the first dictionary, where did he find the words?

5. Why do we say something is out of whack? What is a whack?

6. Why does "slow down" and"slow up" mean the same thing?

7. Why does "fat chance" and "slim chance"mean the same thing?

8. Why do "tug" boats push their barges?

9. Why do we sing"Take me out to the ballgame"when we are already there?

10. Why are they called " stands"when they are made for sitting?