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.
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.
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.