For some people, Memorial Day is just another three-day weekend, the beginning of grilling season, the opening of community pools. It has become a day of great joy for many people. Most realize the day has something to do with honoring military, so veterans are often thanked for their service or even told “Happy Memorial Day.”
Unfortunately, it is easy to lose sight of the true meaning of the day. Many with wonderful intention attempt to honor those of us veterans who are alive today, but the day is meant to honor our fallen brothers and sisters. All who served did so willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, and this day is dedicated to the sacrifice those men and women made with their lives. The freedoms we share today are due to them, and this day is to honor those who lost their lives defending our freedom.
For those desiring to thank a veteran, the day would be best used to honor those who passed. Listen to the stories of the heroes who are no longer with us. Honor them, their spouses and their children, and try to respect the solemnness that a veteran you know may be experiencing.
For my first few years home from combat, Memorial Day was a day when I rarely spoke. It was filled with tears and some quiet time outside to honor those who were lost in combat.
For many veterans, sharing stories about our lost brothers and sisters can help with the healing process. For me, it was extremely hard at first, but now I enjoy talking about them and keeping their stories alive. We can show care for other veterans who lost loved ones – remember that very few have dealt with losing a brother or sister in arms, so appreciate the thanks someone gives you on this day. They are thanking you because they care, and you can use it as an opportunity to kindly educate them on the true meaning of the day.
Those of us who have lost someone we cared for in combat have an obligation to live our lives to the fullest. We get an amazing chance to live and should be thankful for the opportunity to live in their honor. When I reflect on the brothers I lost in combat, it motivated me to seek help with the war I was continuing to battle on the inside. By sharing, I learned to move past and cope with my combat experiences and enjoy the life I was now living. It changed my entire perspective on life. It was the most emotional pain I ever felt, but I wanted his sacrifice to drive me to be a better man.
One of my fallen brothers didn’t have the opportunity to be a husband or a father, so I knew I needed to strive to be the best husband and father I could be in his honor – it is what he would have wanted. My family hears the stories of my friend, and we will be honoring him and the others that gave their lives defending our freedoms. Memorial Day is their day, and we have been given a chance to live our lives in freedom thanks to their ultimate sacrifices.
Mark J. Miller is an Army combat veteran and Purple Heart Recipient. He served with Special Ops and Infantry and Military Intelligence units and uses his own experience battling PTSD and my TBI to help other veterans. He enjoys Friday Night small group, hiking, being outdoors, working out, teaching, fellowship, baseball, serving others, learning new information and kayaking. He, his wife and children are a crazy fun loving family that love each other and love to serve others.