Today, many Americans begin celebrating the Memorial Day weekend. The news tells a story of two American families that are experiencing very different emotions.
Later today, the US Naval Academy class of 2010 will graduate. Two members of that class are a brother and sister who represent the fourth and fifth members of their family to graduate from the Academy. They are part of the first and only American family in which every member of the family graduated from a US military Academy. As one of the very first female graduates of the Academy, the mother is particularly proud of her 4′11″ tall daughter who is a company commander.
The second family is suffering with entirely different emotions after learning today of the death of their son who was the 1,000th soldier to die in Afghanistan.
The one emotion that both families are feeling is pride ….the pride in their children and in their commitment to serve in the US Armed Forces.
With the commercialization of holidays, we often forget the true meaning of those holidays. Some children think Memorial Day is a holiday representing the beginning of summer. They need to know that is a time to remember and give thanks to those who have served and have died to secure, insure and protect our freedom.
During a recent trip, I met a soldier at the airport and thanked him for his service. He was appreciative and began to tell me of some of his experiences of being both courageous and fearful. He spoke of his commitment and the reason for serving his country as well as the challenges for his family, his wife and young children. He was excited about his one-week leave and he also mentioned that in eight days he will head back to war; a war that he feels is justified. Upon leaving, he told me not to listen to the news and stated that we are doing good and “both the Iraqi and Afghanistan people are very appreciative”.
While visiting one of my son’s in Philadelphia last week, we received a call from a good friend who is an Army officer serving in Iraq. He was happy to speak to someone “back home”. We learned of his seven-day work weeks and the inability to leave their base during their off hours. He described it as “one step above being in prison” but he added that we are doing good for the Iraqi people. Admittedly, I felt helpless during the call because thanking Eric for his sacrifice is not nearly enough. I recommend that you do your part by walking up to servicemen and women when you see them and thank them for their commitment. It will mean more you could ever imagine.
Regardless of your views of politics or the war, take a few minutes this weekend and think of the people who put their lives on the line in order to assure your freedom.
Have a Happy and Safe Memorial Day weekend!