Dear Friends and Family,
Of all the patriotic related messages I write, the ones I write for Memorial Day are always the hardest. It is the one and only holiday celebrated in our country that is specifically set aside to honor the dead. It honors the men and women who have not only made the ultimate sacrifice but those that have done so in service to our nation. No single sacrifice can ever come close to equaling that which is made in defense of others, in defense of an entire country.
The soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guardsmen that have given their lives did not ask for nor did they expect to be one of the over one million who are on the nation’s honor roll. In another reality they might have been among the majority of Americans who live long, relatively uneventful lives. They would have 9 – 5 jobs, a loving spouse and family, a couple of children and a pet dog. Perhaps in an ideal world, all in this world would live like that.
We do not however live in that ideal setting, nor will we in our lifetimes. Instead we thank God that there are those who sacrificed the perfect life for something more, that they were willing to surrender their dreams to preserve our nation and our way of life. That they were able to see beyond the simple pleasures and understand there are some things worth dying for.
These men and women didn’t work that air conditioned office job. They chose combat boots instead of dress shoes. Uniforms instead of suits. 24 hour shifts in places that seemed closer to Hell than anything else on Earth. Months on end spent away from their families and loved ones.
That loving spouse? If they were lucky enough to have one, they most likely wrote a “just in case” letter to them in the days before they left for duty overseas. Many of us did and thankfully many are never opened or see the light of day. Mine is still tucked away – maybe someday I will share it with my wife and children. For others though, that letter did get opened by their wife or husband or mom or dad. “Be proud of me, I’ll miss you, and I love you” have been written and read all too many times as tears fell on the paper.
And the children. Oh, the children. To have to tell a child that, “Daddy’s not coming home” or “Mommy’s in heaven with God.” To be that husband or wife, dealing with the incredible grief and yet to have to be strong for the kids. Then comes the day when you shake at the sound of the 21 guns, to reach out your hands to accept the flag and watch your child so bravely stand and salute the casket as a bugler mournfully plays Taps.
No, they were not your typical Americans by any stretch of the imagination nor are those they have left behind. They loved life and they loved their families but they felt a calling to something even greater. Without hesitation they stood bravely and answered the call. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten as long as we ensure their flame burns eternally at memorials across this nation, in our nation’s consciousness and indeed, in the very souls of all Americans.
Should they be mourned? Absolutely. But they should also be celebrated. As General George Patton once said, “In my mind we came here to thank God that men like these lived rather than regret that they died.” On this Memorial Day we shed a tear for them but we also say “thank you” and smile at their memory for without their sacrifice, we would not be free to enjoy this day and the days to come.
So to all who have made the ultimate sacrifice I say this prayer:
Fair winds and following seas, shipmates. May God grant you the peace in passing that you did not enjoy in life and please know that we will never forget your sacrifice. Thank you for your service and thank you to your family as their sacrifice is second only to your own.
May God bless you and God bless America!