Memorial Day–To Those Who Give the Ultimate Sacrifice
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….