I don’t write many posts on here about the fact that Handsome is in the military. It’s not that we aren’t super duper proud of that fact. We totally are. And it’s not that it doesn’t influence how we live or function on a daily basis. It totally does.
I suppose it’s because, although military service is his profession of choice, it’s not the end all and be all of who we are as a family. To some, the sacrifices and pace of his job might seem overwhelming, but to us this is just life. And its a good life indeed.
Most Americans know there are two days our country has set aside to honor and remember citizens who have served in our military. But many confuse the two; unaware of the very poignant difference between them.
Veterans Day is November 11th: this is the time to thank anyone and everyone who has or is currently serving in the armed forces. Go crazy posting vintage photos of family members in uniform, tweeting patriotic shout-outs, and texting your Great Uncle Bob your appreciation for his service in Vietnam.
The other day is always the last Monday in May – Memorial Day. Too many Americans view this holiday as only the traditional beginning of summer; a time to bust out the BBQs, speedboats, and strawberry lemonade. Consumer advertising does their part to make you think this weekend is about scoring the best deal on a new mattress or SUV.
But they’re wrong.
Memorial Day is not to remember everyone who has served, but rather it is one day dedicated solely to those who didn’t come home.
We have been fortunate. In the many years of living this life, building friendships with military families all over the country, we have been spared the loss of someone close. I have known loss at arms length though: the friend of a friend, a colleague of Handsome, and several in his larger group of comrades. I have received email notifications of tragedy and bowed my head in prayer for the shattered families. I have stood at military funerals and shed tears as men in crisp white uniforms play taps beside a flag draped coffin. My kids have played with the children of women widowed by war.
People in this community don’t readily forget what the good life actually costs.
The irony is that all the amazing things you’ll spend this weekend doing (camping, boating, eating, swimming, beach lounging, movie going, and such) are exactly what thousands of fellow Americans have died to protect. If they were here, it’s what they would be doing too. They wouldn’t want us to spend a sunny 3-day weekend mourning them.
But the next few days, I plan to begin my summer by remembering. Not just a Facebook status saying “Oh, thanks to everyone who paid the ultimate price protecting our freedom.” Those are just empty words.
Instead, I plan to memorize one name; one American who traded his/her future for mine. I will teach my children that they live in the greatest country on Earth, but only because others are willing to lay down their lives to keep it that way.
My challenge to you is the same. Do not thank the ones still living, but instead choose to remember just one fallen solider. Maybe find someone from your home state or that shared your birthday. Memorize their name, where they came from and when they died. Search the internet to find news articles about their life or dedication pages set up in their memory. Pray for the family they left behind. Keep them on your heart as you enjoy your holiday weekend.
Genuine remembrance is the greatest honor we can bestow on those who deserve it most.
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Honor the Fallen is an excellent place to search for a service member to honor.