Memorial Day Grace and Perspective from one Army Wife

(Last Updated On: May 28, 2016)

Before 2005, Memorial Day wasn’t really on my radar, even coming from a family of servicemen.

It was the beginning of summer, and I could wear white shoes again.

But wasn’t real in a tangible way, until I kissed my young man goodbye and sent him to war.

I’m lucky that when I gave my heart to a soldier, he came home to me.

Not every military spouse, child, sister, parent, or friend is as lucky as I have been, and I cannot speak for them.

I can only speak for my heart on this issue.

Starting a few days ago, posts began circulating on social media about knowing the difference between Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Armed Forces Day.

Spreading knowledge is admirable, but the tone of some posts was almost hostile.

“Don’t thank my husband on Memorial Day.”

“If you wear the uniform, Memorial Day isn’t about you.”

I can only imagine the grief that spurred those posts, but they missed the real point of honoring military service.

Absolutely, Memorial Day is about those who gave all.

It honors those who won’t ever come home: Dads, daughters, sons, mothers who sacrificed everything to stand for our nation.

Absolutely, Memorial Day honors those who gave all, but all gave some. Don't miss a chance to thank them. Click To Tweet

The depth of that sacrifice is too great to quantify. Boys left home and never returned to marry waiting sweethearts. Men left pregnant wives never meeting their child. Mothers kissed babies goodbye and will never kiss them goodnight again. Sons graduated, but never had the chance to live the lives they imagined.

It’s too heavy to grasp unless you’ve lost someone.

Not sure what to say on Memorial Day? or if you should say Thank you? Here's some Memorial Day Grace from one Army Wife's perspective

But I look at those white crosses lining green fields and see people who will never hear another heartfelt, “thank you for your service” and my husband who came home but will never be the same.

And I think, who cares if you get it wrong and thank a living soldier on Memorial Day? or an active service member on Veteran’s Day?

Gold Star families who lost someone might answer differently, but I imagine if they could say thank you or invite you to thank their loved one one more time, they would.

So I want everyone to know why we celebrate Memorial Day, to recognize and honor those who paid the ultimate price. We stop to pay homage because if we don’t honor those who sacrificed all, the next generations won’t understand how valuable their freedom is.

But if you also thank a living veteran or active soldier, GOOD.

Because All gave Some, too. No one came home the same. No one serves without risking it all.

Take every chance to say thank you while they are alive.

Memorial Day is also remembering those, like my husband, who went willing to make that sacrifice, and knowing he lived things that haunt his nightmares so I can sleep in peace.

Not sure what to say on Memorial Day? or if you should say Thank you? Here's some Memorial Day Grace from one Army Wife's perspective

As a military spouse, I want to invite you to understand this military life, its costs and sacrifices as well as its joys and adventures; but there is a price, and I don’t think we can honor those who pay it too often.

Last week, my husband didn’t stand when they honored all service members at his son’s graduation, because he doesn’t consider himself a hero.

I love his humility, but later, I held his hand and reminded him that he stands not for himself, but for those around him: so his family recognizes that his service matters to our country, that what we all lost carries weight, and so that those around him can connect a face to the sacrifice of those who serve.

Memorial Day may be about those who’ve died, but it’s for the living, for us to remember the cost of our freedom. And there is no wrong way to do that.

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28 Replies to “Memorial Day Grace and Perspective from one Army Wife”

  1. I was just talking about this with my husband this morning! I think it is funny so many people don’t know the difference, but I also think there is no harm in thanking a living serviceman. Thank you for this post- you put it all to words very nicely!

    1. I guess I’d rather people thank too often than not enough. And if I were to get mad about something, it would be people who don’t recognize the sacrifices our military make for our country.

    1. Every time I see a vet, I try to say thank you if I get the chance, and I thank my husband every time we hear the national anthem. I don’t think you can appreciate their service too much.

    1. We’ve been a safe place for so long, we are out of touch with the cost to keep it that way. I think less than 1% of our nation serve. We just don’t know the cost if we aren’t associated with it.

    1. I think they are just wounded broken-hearted people who mourn a lost service member and their hurts just overpowered their sense. But I still have my soldier, so I try to empathize. Thank you for being mindful of his service. He would say it’s just his job, but I know better.

  2. Beautiful. I do think many never think of those who gave so much so we can live with freedom. And often we forget the spouses who keep the family running back home, and the children who miss mom or dad, too.

    1. The children break my heart the most. My stepsons gave up four years of their childhood. Dad was just gone. They got a few phone calls and letters, but we didn’t really have much access to skype then. I cannot imagine how it hurt them to have a dad who was gone every other year. How it damaged their relationship with their father is something we can’t measure. The kids definitely aren’t considered when the soldiers are repeatedly deployed or sent on two-three year tours without their families. It’s ridiculous.

  3. Although I don’t have direct ties to the military within my immediate family, I always tear up a bit when service members are asked to stand to be recognized–and I LOVE when spouses are also asked to stand. There’s a sacrifice in being a solider, but also a sacrifice in being married to one.

  4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I think you have a wise and compassionate point of view. And too, maybe a lot of living service members and veterans have lost friends and companions in service… so Memorial Day might be awfully personal for those folks too. I have to agree with you that appreciation on any day can hardly be a bad thing!
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  5. What a wonderful post! My husband had this happen to him this year. He made a comment about honoring those that have served and was quickly corrected and told that Memorial Day is about those that died serving our country. A mistake he won’t make again but we had a very similar discussion about this exact thing after that. I suppose it’s a good thing since it got us talking about it. Thank you for sharing so eloquently. Beautiful post!

    1. Thank you! I don’t know how your husband felt after he was corrected, but I think I’d rather encourage gratitude than shush it. There are ways to say, “I appreciate all those who’ve served and sacrificed, especially on Memorial Day when we pay homage to those who died in the service of our country.” and support all forms of gratitude with grace and invitation.

  6. I really enjoyed and appreciated this post! Wish I had seen it earlier, because I would have shared over Memorial Day Weekend. I never really knew the difference between the holidays, but a veteran shared them with us at church this past Sunday. It’s important to know why you’re celebrating or observing something, but I agree that if you get a little mixed up and thank someone for their service on the “wrong” day it’s okay. I’m sure they would like to hear an expression of gratitude for their sacrifice on Memorial Day, instead of not at all. This line gave me chills- “knowing he lived things that haunt his nightmares so I can sleep in peace”- wow.

  7. To be honest, I’ve never even thought about the differences in the holidays so I am glad you brought that to my attention. I just always remember and am thankful for all military, whether deceased, active or retired, whether they served in war or not, on those special days. I would think all military would share in the esprit de corps mentality, where all are part of one in spirit and mind. When one dies, others hurt. When one fights, others support. Etc. But I have no close connections to military, so maybe that would be offensive. I know now to be more aware!

    1. My point was that we should act more like a community and celebrate any gratitude towards service rather than offer hostile correction to people who don’t know the difference. That kind of negative attitude doesn’t speak well of us as military or Christians.

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