Appreciating Memorial Day

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.” — unknown


Luckily, I have never had a loved one die while serving our country.

I have had loved ones injured and changed forever because of their experience overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, the heartache and fear I have experienced for these family members and friends cannot compare to actually losing a loved one, and I can’t imagine the loss. I’ve been fortunate to lose very few loved ones even off the battle field.

Growing up, I loved Memorial Day. We grilled out with family and friends while taking the day to relax and have a good time. It’s hard to comprehend the real meaning of Memorial Day when you have never been affected personally by death and war.

I guess I truly became aware of the holiday’s meaning, which honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military, once I graduated from high school. I come from a large family and, upon graduation, I had five male cousins about my age enlist in the military and serve overseas. Later, I became good friends with others who enlisted.

I’m now thankful that I can spend each Memorial Day with these family members and friends instead of putting flowers or flags on their graves like so many other families have to. Instead, we have different wounds and scars to attend to.

The other factor that has changed the meaning of Memorial Day came from an unlikely source: My work email. In August 2010, I began working at my present job and began receiving a slew of Department of Defense news releases — many of which were death announcements for soldiers killed while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

I now receive at least one or two of these emails daily and the majority of the deaths are of soldiers who are my age or younger. It strikes home the meaning of these soldiers’ sacrifice even more and what they will never get to experience. Each time I receive an email announcing the death of a soldier younger than me, I automatically think of where I was, what I was doing and what all I have experienced and learned since then. It’s humbling to think of their sacrifice.

I now fully appreciate what Memorial Day — and what every day really — means: These fallen soldiers were willing to lay down their lives for our nation and it’s citizens.

So, I’ll strive to do my part in remembering them and their sacrifice. As President Barack Obama said today, “… we can strive to be a nation worthy of your sacrifice. A nation that is fair and equal, peaceful and free. A nation that weighs the cost of every human life. A nation where all of us meet our obligations to one another, and to this country that we love. That’s what we can do.”

We might not agree, or like, the reason of the war, the politicians involved or the acts of war. However, we should respect the lives of those willing to fight for us. I, for one, will always strive to make the best of mine — it’s just one way to show that they didn’t sacrifice their life in vain.

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