On Memorial Day, I Remember

Memorial Day 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Every Memorial Day, they go to his gravesite to pay their respects. They cry because he lived, and they cry because he died. And now all that remains are the memories. Battle buddies to the end, through their tears they see their mantra – “We will never forget” – engraved on the stone.

She kneels to kiss the tomb of her beloved. There, her mind wanders back to the day when the mailman came to her doorstep, delivering the awful news that she and her children would never see him again. The all-too familiar feeling in the pit of her stomach rears its ugly head, and the knot in her throat gets bigger. She knows by now that it doesn’t get better by holding it in, so she lets go. Just to smell the air where he lays is all there is, so it has to be enough. Through the grieving wife’s looking glass read the words, “We will never forget.”

He picks up the photograph of the man whom he only vaguely remembers but hears people speak so highly of all the time. Lowering his head, he returns the picture to the mantle and makes his way to his mother for more stories of this brave man he once called ‘Dad,’ but who is now only a faded part of his memory. Feeling his anger rise, he runs out of the house. He runs and keeps running, not knowing where he’s going, but somehow he ends up there… the local Veteran Memorial. He leans on the stone, grabbing it with anger and hurt, and leans forward to see the inscription: “We will never forget.”

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The stories above were either told to me or I was the one to experience it. As a combat Veteran I remember being angry that my friends had died, wanting the whole word to stop and pay respects to these great men and women of valor. And on Memorial Day – a federal holiday set aside to honor Americans who died in military service – I was angry that all around me people seemed only to be focused on big store sales, barbecues and family gatherings. But as I lived another year, and another year, and another year, my survivor’s guilt would turn into passion, and I made a vow to do exactly what my military brethren and sisters did: Give my all.

I came to realize that no matter how many hands I shook, how many services I attended, or how many memorials I bowed my head for fellow comrades, what matters most is that I REMEMBER. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to cry because they had lived and to cry because they had died…

So, as you celebrate this Memorial Day, I encourage you to remember the true purpose of the holiday and to take a few moments to consider how someone out there—a battle buddy, a spouse, a mother, a child—is remembering a smile, a love, a life, and the freedoms that we all enjoy because their loved one gave their all.

“WE WILL NEVER FORGET.”

Happy Memorial Day!

Nicole S. Hart, CEO ARVets

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