America sets only a few days aside each year to honor those who represent the best of what our country stands for. The word holiday derives its meaning from the old English word haligdæg, which translates to holy-day or Sabbath. Each of our holidays must be better than just an extra day off from work. Our holidays reflect the heart and soul of our nation; they have value beyond what they have become, another opportunity to sell a car or piece of furniture. Let us commit ourselves to properly honoring and holding in respect the importance of each of these days.
Of all the holidays we “celebrate,” Memorial Day is our most reverent. Memorial Day should be our time to stop as a nation and honor those who “gave the last full measure of devotion” on our behalf. Our simplest gestures reflect our sincerest gratitude to our fallen heroes. A parade, the bowing of our heads in solemn prayer, a hand over the heart as the American flag passes by, and the placing of that same American flag on each of our fallen soldiers’ and sailors’ graves. It seems so modest when you consider what we are paying tribute to, what we are honoring. Given the opportunity, I wonder what those who gave their lives would like us to remember and honor.
As someone who has served in the military and knows families who have lost loved ones in the service of our country, I do not profess to speak on their behalf. However, I believe I have a sense of what a solider or sailor might want to tell us as a nation if given the chance.
Thank you for this remembrance, and although I cannot be with you in body this Memorial Day, know that I am with you in spirit every day. When a soft breeze causes our country’s flag to flutter in the wind, know that it is the whispers of every man and woman who laid down their lives so others would know peace and liberty. Make every day Memorial Day — honor each passing minute with reverence for those who not only defended our great nation, but for those that still do.
I know that I am always in the memory of my family, both my immediate family and my brothers and sisters I proudly served alongside. When you honor me, you honor them. Take care of my mother and father, my husband or wife, and my children. Keep them in more than just your prayers, and more than just one day a year. Keep them in your hearts and in your deeds every day. Sacrifice for them as I have sacrificed for your family. Let them know each and every day how grateful you are for all the joys in your life, and how you will never forget me.
Serve my brothers and sisters upon their return as they served you in harm’s way. Let them never know want, or regret. Commit yourself to healing their scars, both physical and mental. Put their comfort above yours and ease their suffering. Honor them, value them and help them as I would. The love and compassion you show for those who served reminds them of the greatness of this country. They put duty to country above all else; now is the time for you to repay that debt. When you do this, you truly honor my sacrifice.
On Memorial Day, gather your family together and remind them what this day means. Bring them to a parade or a memorial service. Show them you care and are thankful for the peace and blessings you know in your life. Make sure your son and daughter see you hold your hand over your heart as the flag passes, and watch with pride as they do the same. Do not be afraid or ashamed to shed a tear in remembrance of me and for all those we honor on Memorial Day. Show your heart and your pride for your children to see, for it is in that gesture they will understand the importance of Memorial Day.
I wish that events would have permitted me to live a long and happy life, but know that I have no regrets in my sacrifice. It was my honor to serve and defend our wonderful nation. What I would not give to hug my parents again and tell them one more time how much I love them. I know in my absence your devotion to my sacrifice will bring solace to my family. A simple “thank you” and a few moments of your time this Memorial Day will comfort my family and remind them that my sacrifice was not in vain.
God bless America and those we honor on Memorial Day.