My friend Jacqueline L. Russell-Wegner asked me to post this:

Memorial Day Weekend has always represented the kick off to the summer season. However, like many other Americans, my understanding of the day’s meaning was learned in a brief lesson in a civics class. I prefer the phrase “a day of memory” over a “holiday”, as the latter suggests a celebration while the former is intended as a day to reflect. It a day to remember those who served, those we lost while defending our freedoms, and to say “thank you” to those who served and are still with us.

I married into the military in my early 20”s. My husband was attending the United States Air Force Academy when we met. Our first Memorial Day together, he shared his disappointment that so many Americans fail to acknowledge this symbolic day in American culture.

This Memorial Day is an especially poignant for my family. My son, a two-tour Marine Veteran, is back on U.S soil and attending school under the GI Bill. Though physically intact, the mental trauma of his actions, and those killed in action, are memories that will haunt him for the rest of his life. He does not view his psychological challenges as an injury. To him, injuries are those suffered by the heroes who lost a limb or a lie. This perspective is heroic on it’s own from my point of view.

My younger son enlisted as an Army Special Ranger and will be graduating from “R.A.S.P” on June 13. He was fortunate to have been offered an appointment into the highly prestigious West Point Class of 2017. If his unit deploys to Syria before July 1, he will decline his highly-coveted appointment and deploy with his fellow Rangers. He would never allow his new brothers to go into harm’s way after training together for the last nine months together. It’s been said that the servicemembers remain for the “brother on the left, and on the right” even when their service has ended. It’s part of esprit de corps. “Always faithful”.

Each Memorial Day I try to attend a service to pay my respects. An image that stands out in my mind is of the few elderly survivors of World War II, who still manage to dress in their best suits and sit through Memorial Day Services. They sit, silently, not looking for attention but there to remember, and pay their respects. These men already paid their dues but there they are, still “remembering”. I am always touched seeing these men as much as I am by the words spoken by the person standing at the podium. Many of these veterans arrive and depart without saying a word. Their modest silence speaks volumes.

My wish is for parents to take their children to a local Memorial Day Parade or tribute, and explain why Memorial Day is a Federal holiday. Explain to them that having fun with friends and family is the result of other people’s incredible sacrifice…which for many was the “ultimate sacrifice”.

Say thanks in your mind if you see someone whom you know to have served. Even if they are too modest to accept your words of thanks — thank them anyway. Deep down, they appreciate it.

This Memorial Day I wish to say “thank you” to all who served, who may have placed personal reservations aside, or families on hold, so we may have a life of freedom. It is more important than ever not only to say “thank you” but to remember why they fought — for our freedom — and we need to remind ourselves that freedom does not come without a price and when we take it for granted, or become indifferent. What took years and lives to gain, we can very quickly, lost.

Thank you, thank you, thank you…for all who sacrificed.

“An unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it.” – Col. Jeff Cooper, USMC

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