As I reflect on Memorial Day, it’s often one of contrast for me.
On one hand, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer—a day of celebration, anticipation, joy, family gatherings, and outdoor barbeques.
On the other, it’s a reminder of the somber reality of why Memorial Day exists—to honor and recognize the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The ones who have died fighting the nation’s wars both abroad and on our own soil.
And I struggle with it every year. Someone will say, “Thank you for your service” or “Happy Memorial Day,” and while I know the person has good intentions, I realize they may not fully understand the true meaning of the day. I think maybe most people don’t.
So I commit to sharing the significance of this day because while people are celebrating this holiday, others are mourning those who didn’t come home. Some are laying wreaths on the graves of a mother, father, brother, sister, wife, child, friend, or neighbor who they will never hug or speak to again. So for a moment, imagine being in their shoes.
If it helps, here is what I will do – I’ll continue to reflect in private and probably share a story or two. I’ll remember and celebrate the lives of the friends who were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, or while deployed on an aircraft carrier. I’ll remember those I didn’t know who I watched from 20,000 feet above Afghanistan as I flew their close air support. I didn’t know them personally, but I certainly knew of the danger they faced on the ground. And I’ll think of family and friends whose lives were touched far away from Afghanistan when a man or woman gave their life because of an IED strike, a firefight, or in the heat of a battle.
I hope to be joined as I commit to educating people on the true meaning of Memorial Day—to honor those brave, selfless, admirable men and women who gave their lives. I’ll share the memories of my fallen colleagues and I’ll listen to Greyshirts reflect on their own personal stories and their own losses.
Greyshirt, I welcome you to share your stories with me, with your community. The stories of the brave men and women who gave their lives live with you. May their memories never be forgotten.
Honor them. I honor them with you.