Memorial Day. It’s a day to remember everyone who fought and died for everything we have. These are the real heroes of our country. Not all these celebrities that can’t stand not being in front of all the cameras all the time. The real heroes are these men and women who put their uniform on knowing full well that it may be for the last time. They, in a way, are just like us. They don’t WANT to die. They have a family. They have dreams. They have a life that they want to live. They wouldn’t be human if they WANTED to die for us. But they are anything but like us in one very important way. They were WILLING to put their life on the line for us. People they don’t even know.
They were willing to put that uniform on, even if it meant it was the last thing they wore. They were willing to go to the front lines and watch their friends and fellow soldiers die as they were slowly losing their grasp on life. They joined the fight on purpose. They knew what they were signing up for. They knew that there was a good possibility they would not be coming home again. They kissed their spouse and kids before they left. They knew that those arms around their necks could be the last time they felt them. They knew that their family would be sacrificing just as much as they would be. But they answered the call anyway. Why? Because they knew what it could mean if they didn’t. They answered the call because it would mean a better life for their family and the country. Even if they were not here to see the better life they provided.
The weather today is overcast and rainy. That seems fitting for everything that Memorial Day stands for. Today was not designed and set aside for picnics and parties. Today was set aside as a day to remember these fallen heroes. These men and women who gave their everything for our country. They gave their everything so that the rest of us wouldn’t need to give everything. They gave their everything so that we can have the liberties and freedoms that we have. Every American should be thankful and respectful to these heroes. We owe them, and their families, so very much. Most American citizens have no idea the sacrifice these people make. The spouse left at home with the children? They are essentially a single parent while their spouse is away fighting. But they have the added stress of not knowing whether or not they will see that loved one again. It doesn’t matter if the spouse left at home is Mom or Dad, there is an unbelievable amount of stress on that parent.
Since my husband is off to work today, we took the kids to the cemetery yesterday. The closest military cemetery is about an hour away from our house. That one is located on a military base and isn’t always open to the public. So, instead of going there, we took the kids to the cemetery here in town. There are many military heroes buried there and there are a couple small sections set aside strictly for military. Ones who weren’t buried with family or didn’t have anyone to be buried alongside.
We stopped at my grandparents’ graves to start. My grandpa was a cook on a Navy ship during WW2. I showed the kids the headstone and where it listed what branch he was in and his rank when he was discharged. We also pointed out how each grave of a hero had a flag staked next to it. Then Phillip took the kids over to the military area.
This area is simple yet beautiful in its own way. The section is set up on a grid with concrete sidewalks in between the beautiful white headstones listing each service member’s name, branch, rank, war they were a part of, and the dates they were born and died. My husband went through each stone with the kids and explained what the ranks meant and answered the questions the kids had about the differences in the stones. Each of the kids were very sober when walking through the cemetery.
They learned a lot of things yesterday. They learned what it means to be a member of the military. They learned that not everyone comes home from serving. They learned that some families are separated for months at a time, if the soldier comes home at all. They learned that these people gave everything so that we could be free. They learned that, as cliché as it sounds, freedom isn’t free. They learned that there is a huge price that many people have paid so that we can live the way we do. I’m very thankful that our children have their Dad to teach them these things. I grew up with a lot of military in my family, but I don’t understand all the different ranks very well. Phillip served in the Navy before I met him, so I was never immersed in the full military lifestyle as a normal military spouse would be. I have always been taught and trained on how to be respectful and thankful for these men and women, but I don’t know the particulars of the ranks and things like that. But, I’m hoping my children will learn these things from their dad early in life.
So, as you go about the rest of your weekend, please be mindful of why you get a long weekend. Please be respectful to the men and women of our armed forces. These people have given us so very much. Yes, enjoy your weekend. Enjoy your family time over the holiday. But please don’t ever forget the reason we can have the time that we do.
And, if you have family or friends that have served or are currently serving, please remember to thank them. Today is not specifically meant for either of those two types of veterans, but thank them anyway. And please be sure to stop at the cemetery and pay your respects to those who have fallen. We need to keep their memory alive and keep teaching our children how to honor those who have fallen and how to respect and honor those who are still alive and/or currently serving. These people are the only ones standing in between us and the people across the globe who want us to fall. We need to honor these people. They are the true heroes of our country.