“Have a great weekend! Have a happy Memorial Day!” are words many of us spoke on Friday as we left the work week and entered into the holiday weekend. It seems so counterintuitive to wish someone a “happy” Memorial Day when you look at what the day is about. Despite it’s solemn purpose, our nation fills the weekend with barbeques and parties year after year. Many refer to it as our “unofficial beginning of summer.”
I remember when I was growing up, the thought of joining the military was one of the farthest things from my mind. I had no desire or intention to serve; convinced I didn’t have what it took. To my own surprise one day, with two years of college under my belt, there I sat, in the Air Force recruiter’s office signing on the proverbial dotted line.
When I joined the Air Force, for some reason, I had a false sense of security assuming I would never be exposed to a combat situation, and I’d never have to deal with the devastation of war. Then 9/11 happened….and all of that false security went out the door…in fact I pushed it out. I watched the footage we all saw on the news that day from my dorm room as a young Airman, and practically begged my Flight Chief to let me go with the disaster response team to help in whatever ways I could. Just like that, I began to truly understand that the military, my service, was much bigger than me.
While I wasn’t tasked with a deployment in 2001, from that moment on I was ready to go whenever it was my time. Finally, in 2008, it was my turn; I had the honor and privilege to augment a team of US Army Green Berets on a very violent firebase in Afghanistan. For six months we dealt with the brutal realities of war up close and personal. Two of the men I served with were killed in action; Travis Hunsberger was killed June 27, 2008 and Greg “Rod” Rodriguez was killed in battle on September 2, 2008. Just like that, my world changed. War wasn’t “over there” the suffering and grief was no longer happening to someone else. Loss and death were now forever painfully burned into my heart.
Ever since 2008, my perspective on so much has changed, especially Memorial Day. Each year, I find myself thinking of the families of the two men I knew for such a brief time before their lives were stolen from their loved ones. I think of how those families spend Memorial Day weekend….and I’m so humbled.
All of that being said…by no means do I think Memorial Day should not be a fun and joyous event…in fact quite the contrary. I think the celebrating we do on this weekend is so important. As we go into Memorial Day 2016, here are a few ways to honor our fallen on such an important holiday.
4 Ways to Honor Our Fallen On Memorial Day and Beyond
1. Pause and Remember
Before the party gets started…Pause. Remember those who sacrificed it all, and the families they left behind who continue to carry the weight of that sacrifice every day. In America we are blessed with so many freedoms that we have, and continue to fight so hard for. Your political affiliation doesn’t make a lick of difference when it comes to the gratitude and respect we owe our fallen service men and women for what they have done for our nation.
2. Live in the Joy of Right Now
One of the most important things we can appreciate from our fallen service members is that life is way too short. If you’re like me, you can very easily find yourself caught up in where you’re going, and if you’re not careful, you can completely miss the significance of where you are. Be intentional in your appreciation for right now. The people you are spending it with, the memories you are making, the love you are sharing are all such blessings.
The men and women that we remember this weekend were part of something so much bigger than themselves. I truly believe nothing would honor them more than us fully appreciating what we have in the amazing nation they worked so hard to defend.
3. Practice Forgiveness
To harbor resentment and anger towards another, or even yourself, is one of the most toxic human habits to have. Holding on to something so heavy does nothing but weigh you down. We all experience pain, betrayal, shame, and regret. The only thing you gain by holding on to those things is more pain. When you can come to a place of forgiveness, you set yourself free from the chains of resentment. Forgiveness doesn’t make the pain go away, but it does allow you to move on.
So many of our fallen didn’t have the chance to experience the freedom of forgiveness. Take the opportunity they didn’t have. Forgive.
4. Be Bold and Courageous
When we think of those two words, it is so easy to associate them with the heroes in our military. They are bold and courageous in countless ways each and every day. To be bold and courageous means to have a state of mind that allows us to face our difficulties, dangers, challenges despite our fear. That can seem impossible when it comes to looking at yourself and your own circumstances. It may seem that whatever the situation is, it’s way too big or unattainable to take on.
Every single day is a gift. When I think of my friend Greg Rodriguez and the many conversations we shared about our families, the stories he told me of his wife and kids, and all the things he wanted to do when he got home….I’m reminded of the incredible opportunity that I have in my own life to be bold and courageous. I have the chance to be an amazing mom and wife for my family. I get to reach for my goals. I get to take a chance. I get to fail and pick myself up again. Greg, Travis, and the thousands of other fallen service members, no longer have those opportunities.
Embrace those moments that we all have and appreciate the gift that they are. Be bold and courageous in making a positive impact.
I hope you have the happiest of Memorial Days this year, and that you honor our fallen in these ways and others today and beyond.
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