Memorial Day weekend is upon us (at least here in the United States). This weekend I will be grilling steaks and enjoying the company of loved ones. We might go hiking or spend time at the lake. This is a holiday that seems to just come with a sunburn. But I hope those of you who celebrate this weekend will give thought to what this holiday really means. We honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we might live free.
When one lives in a country as wonderful as ours, it is easy to take a lot of things for granted. I think this truth becomes clearest if we travel to other places less fortunate. Years ago, I lived in a refugee camp in Syria. I had never known what it was like to do without simple things…like clean clothes or water suitable to drink. Showers were an indulgence, and life in a police state was, frankly terrifying. I tend to be a person who likes to laugh and make jokes. Jokes in countries like these can get one thrown in prison or even shot.
In America, it is so easy to forget all that we have. It is even easier to forget the price others have paid so that we might have it. I believe the two best things we can do to honor our sevicemen and women and their families is to 1) remember why we have holidays like Memorial Day and 2) be ever grateful for the gifts that many of them have paid for with blood.
This weekend is a time where all of us can come together and laugh and love, but I hope we all remember who picked up the tab. Our servicemen and women and their families have purchased this freedom and we owe at least our deepest thanks. I am a proud military wife, and come from a family that has served this country in every war since the American Revolution.
My great uncle was among those killed in Pearl Harbor. A couple of years later, my grandfather served in Japan helping the same country that killed his brother rebuild. My father served during the Vietnam War. Every male friend he had in high school died fighting in Vietnam. Yet, years later, my dad would work for hours helping our Vietnamese neighbors do repairs on their home. Dad would even rebuild old bicycles to give to their children. My cousin has fought in Afghanistan, but he also has helped rebuild infrastructure, hospitals and schools.
My husband is a professional who gives up one weekend a month and time in the summer to serve. He was one of those who helped during Katrina, who gave safety to survivors and helped go look for the dead so they might rest in peace. My family members are just a handful of the countless men and women who have given so much to those of us who complain and grumble too often and offer gratitude far too little.
So, to all those who serve this country:
Thank you for my soggy, sprinkler-drenched, newspaper, because it means I don’t live in a police state.
Thank you for the right to disagree with my leaders without fear of being shot or thrown in prison.
Thank you for the political cartoons cluttering my e-mail, because it means we still can have a sense of humor without fear of execution.
Thank you for the college loan I am still paying off. In many other countries I would not even be permitted to read, let alone have a degree.
Thank you for the sleep I had last night, for a sense of safety that you have fought so hard to give me, yet that I too often take for granted.
Thank you for the time I spend with my family, when too often you only see yours in photographs.
Thank you for letting me watch my little boy grow up when so many of you must leave your little ones behind.
Thank you for all you give the ultimate sacrifice so that I might have so much. I don’t say it nearly enough, but thank you for defending this country and all she stands for.
So I hope all of you enjoy this wonderful Memorial Day weekend. Do you have any traditions? How do you normally spend this holiday? Are you a serviceman or woman? Do you know of one you would like to thank? Tell us about them! Maybe even stop by and donate to the Wounded Warrior Foundation, caring for wounded and disabled military heroes.
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Until next time….
Amen, Kristen. Amen.
Beautiful. Thank you for putting into words the way I feel.
Thank you, Kristen, for this wonderful tribute to all who serve in a uniform. It’s surreal for me to realize my husband is an “Afghanistan veteran”. I guess it’ll take another generation growing up before that seems as real as an Iraqi vet, or a Gulf War vet. There will always be another war, another conflict. Supporting our military who serve under free, democratic countries has never been more important. Have a wonderful weekend with your family!
Wonderful, Kristen. And let me add my thanks to yours. Thank you.
I like the idea of Memorial Day. What bothers me is that people so often try to make it political, and I don’t see it that way – if anything, it should be a day where no matter what side of center a person is, they can still mourn together the loss of the men and women who have died for their country, because no matter how just or unjust the cause was, these people were following orders and died for it.
Sorry for the rant – this was a beautiful post, and I thank you for it.
Wonderful piece, Kristen. If we’d had more citizens like you in the 1960s, Vietnam might be a free country today.
My uncle was a prisoner of Japan for five years during WW2. My dad served in Korea. My brother in law served in Viet Nam and he’s still completely mentally screwed up from it. My thanks to all who serve. I salute you.
Kristen, thanks for taking the time to write this. Coming from someone serving now, it means a lot that people continue to remember what it’s about, not that there’s a sale going on.
I (we) appreciate it. 🙂
Agreed. Thank you for this!
My husband is US Marine (honorably discharged, but once a Marine, always a Marine) who did a combat deployment to Iraq. Not enough people appreciate the sacrifice that men and women in the military make. Thank you so much for this post.
Kristen, this was really, really good. I’m glad that people recognize what we do in the military, even those of us that only do it once a month and in the summer. 😉
I too come from a long-time military family. This is a beautiful tribute to these families – I’m going to send it to my cousin Tara who runs ArmyWifeTalkRadio…she’ll love it.
Thank you for this lovely Memorial Day tribute.
Thank you for saying this so eloquently. So many basic everyday happenings we take for granted are dependent on the freedom we are privileged to have in this country, and freedom isn’t free. It costs time,money, minds, souls, arms, legs, blood and lives. My husband is a former Marine (if there is such a thing) and we are acutely aware of the lifestyle those who serve and the families who stay behind supporting them give up. Thank you to those who serve and thank you to their loved ones. A sincere hug for those dark nights of worry and fear; keep looking for the dawn, it will come. We are proud of you all.
Lovely tribute Kristen, thanks for reminding us to stop and reflect.
Fantastic post….My father served, I served and now my daughter and son-in-law serve. Had it not been for those times being away from my family and living in the conditions that others less fortunate live in, I don’t think I would have the appreciation for life and family that I have now. It really does put things in perspective.
Too often we watch chaos on the news in other parts of the world, and we don’t pause to remember that the same chaos would reign here, too, without the men and women who defend us from the enemies who want to fill our lives with terror and sadness. Thank you for this most appropriate tribute.
I am reminded daily – as prayers are lifted for all those that have sacrificed so much for our freedom ( I love the way you listed those things that we so take for granted ) everytime I hear from one of my family members or friends that are serving or have served,
I am truly amazed at the stories that bring tears and gratitude. Thanks Kristen, for putting it into thought provoking words. Thanks for you and your husband’s service :0)
Thanks sweetheart, in our family I have a cousin. His name is Ray McKibben. He won the Medal of Honor, in a faraway place, giving his life to save others. In todays terms, he is what we call a hard mother. His sacrifice is not in vain….lest we forget.
I was watching a TV show the other day about Selection & Assessment for the Special Forces Qualification Course. I had to remind myself that I went through that course a long time ago and was part of the committee that revamped the entire SFAS and the Qualification Course, that in essence redirected Special Forces into the modern world. We weren’t even a branch when I went into SF. I still wore my Infantry crossed rifles when commanding my A-Team.
I marvel sometimes at the amount of team-work and effort that has gone into making our military the best in the world.
Bob, thank you for your service, and for helping shape SF, we need more good folks doing that job.
I specifically want to thank my grandfather, my cousin, and my dear friends for serving our country!
Proudly wave The American Flag!
Again, thanks for posting this. So glad we’re allowed to read
and write. All human beings were created with voice. At least
in this country we can express our opinions. For now.
Beautiful tribute. Thanks, Kristen.
Awesome. I like tributes to our military heroes. Yours is superbly stated. And if Shawn is nearby, go ahead and give him knuckles and a chest bump for me. Make it kind of manly though because I want him to think I’m tough 🙂
You are SO funny! (Thanks for the laugh, especially nice after reading Kristen’s post and getting a bit choked up.)
I have a special thank you to my frogman son and his strong wife. It takes the love of a good woman to keep a great warrior sane.
I love your list of thank you’s. I second them!
Have a wonderful holiday weekend:)
AWESOME POST, KRISTEN! (I posted it to my Facebook page, wanting everyone to have the chance to read it.) Thank you so much for these heartfelt words of Truth! Freedom is NOT FREE!! We owe so much to our men and women in uniform: gratitude, honor, support, and prayers. Have a wonderful week-end getting that Sunburn!! (Don’t forget the sunscreen!)
Thank you for posting Kristen. Best wishes to you and your family this Memorial Day Weekend.
PS: I’d like to link this to my blog and repost on Facebook
And, thank you Kristen for writing your book! I got up early this morning when the house was nice and quiet and read the first half “We are Not Alone.” I realize that your post was geared toward military personnel who serve us, but you too serve. Thanks!
Thanks for this beautiful and heartfelt post, Kristen. As a a product of a long line of service persons, connection to WWI doughboy, WWII Naval pilot, lifesaving Coast Guard, and present day Marine Corp, I can tell you that there is tremendous sacrifice not only by the military personnel, but by their families as well.
Thanks Grandpa, Dad, Lorenzo, Laura and every member present and past for his/her service.
Yes! I agree 100% – thank you for putting it into words for me. 🙂
This post put tears in my eyes. Sometimes, because these men sacrificed a lot, I wish that our leaders would think long and hard before they send people to war. These men sacrifice their lives for this country and frankly, I prefer my friends and relatives in the military to have full limbs and alive. But if it can’t be helped, I would feel grateful if leaders use these men as a last resort.