Please don’t thank me for my military service today. You see, today is Memorial Day. Today is a day to honor the fallen. The ones who signed up to serve and never made it home. They could have died in a training accident, a failed mission or fighting for our freedom in distant lands. Today we remember their sacrifice. And the families of those who are left behind.
All military members are required to take an oath when they join the military. An oath to support and defend this great country. But saying you are willing to give your life to your country is different than having to fill that bill. I served for six years and now my service has ended, but my life continues on. Today is not about me. It is not the day to thank me for the time I served. Today is about remembering.
“All gave some, some gave all. Gone, but not forgotten.”
Today feels so patriotic and full of upbeat songs of freedom. It feels like the right time to thank all veterans for their military service. But that isn’t what today is about.
Thank You for Your Military Service
A few years ago a friend posted, “Thank you for your military service” on my Facebook wall on Memorial Day. I sent a private message back telling her thank you, but today is about remembering those who died and not for those who have served in the military. I asked if she would try to remember to thank me on another day. Any day, just not Memorial Day. To that message I received this response, “I can thank you for your military service every day if I want to.”
Suddenly the nice note on my wall thanking me for my time in the military didn’t feel so nice anymore. Did she thank me or was she trying to feel patriotic? I’m not really sure. But either way it hurt. I wasn’t trying to cause guilt or not be thankful, just trying to explain the importance of today, Memorial Day.
We are in a time of war.
And unfortunately, military accidents happen far too often. If you serve in the military for an extended period of time you likely know someone who has died while serving. So for many in the military community Memorial Day isn’t about remembering the fallen. The fallen have a name. A friend, co-worker, battle buddy who isn’t here today.
The fallen don’t feel so distant when you can put a name to a group. The joy, the focus on summer beginning, a day off. All those things don’t have the same meaning when you face your first Memorial Day without that hero still living. It all changes.
Growing Up and Not Understanding the Meaning
Maybe you are like me and grew up not understanding the meaning and purpose behind Memorial Day. I’m not sure why so many of us are uniformed. Probably because when you grow up outside of the military community the things you hear about are not tied to the meaning of the day. For a long time, I thought Memorial Day was focused on summer starting, BBQs and red, white and blue decorations.
Now I know the meaning behind Memorial Day. And I don’t think it hit home how important this day is until 3 years ago when our friend died in a F-16 training accident. The fallen no longer were a group of unknown people. Instead the fallen had a face and a name.
It is a day I take to reflect and remember the loss. A life cut short. A life given to his country. He is someone I will never forget. Let us remember his legacy today. Along with so many others. Today is their day.
Do you know someone who died while serving in the military? How do you honor their memory each Memorial Day?