A reflection from a Veteran
As we reflect on Memorial Day this weekend, there are a few things to remember before we hang out with our friends, grill some hot dog, play in the water and head to The Colorado Store for some rad apparel. We must take a few minutes to:
- remember why we celebrate Memorial Day in the first place.
- Pay our respects to our fallen soldiers and first responders.
- And read a few words from a Former Sergeant.
There are three dog tags that hang on a shelf behind my home office desk: My grandfather’s, my dad’s, and my own. They’re not just priceless family heirlooms, but reminders of what it cost the few so that so many could enjoy this wonderful, comfortable, prosperous, and free American life.
My Pop lied about his age and joined the Navy during WWII, going on to serve in the Pacific and even smoke his favorite pipe while watching the flag raised over Iwo Jima. My dad barely made it home from Vietnam, and has the scars to prove it. While lavishly decorated for his many acts of selfless valor, he still carries those scars today, both visible and invisible. So when the Twin Towers came crashing down, I knew it was the clarion call of my own time, the moment when I and my generation had to answer the call of duty like our fathers and their fathers before us. And while I too made it home, my time in combat serving in the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan took its toll as well.
Memorial Day commemorates the fallen who never made it home; those who gave the last full measure upon the sweet altar of liberty, whether in the distant sands and jungles of Asia, the beaches of Europe, or the rolling hillsides of Antietam, Shiloh, and Gettysburg. But for many of us who did make it home, it’s also a time to pause and reflect on what their sacrifice meant, and how our collective duty to serve has added to the larger story of America. We’ve all given something in some way, but some gave all, and we not only stand on their mighty shoulders, but we pray prayers of eternal gratitude for their heroic service to our way of life.
Serving our country isn’t about glory or adrenaline; it’s not about what you see in movies and tv shows or on cool memes and posters. The reality is much different. The reality is that war is indeed hell, and the trauma many of us experienced is with us every moment for the rest of our lives. But it was worth it, because America and what she means is worth it. We are the only nation on earth founded upon a creed:
“That all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
America isn’t a race or an ethnicity, but an aspirational idea; a set of eternal, transcendent principles derived from “Nature and nature’s God” that are so much bigger and greater than any one of us. So while our nation has sometimes failed to live up to this aspiration, it’s still what we strive towards, and Memorial Day is the perfect time for every American to reflect upon and be grateful for all of those who’ve chosen to sacrifice so that together, we can keep striving towards a “more perfect Union” that truly is “a city on a hill.”
May God bless you, your families, and America.
A Former Sergeant First Class,
Operation Enduring Freedom,
82nd Airborne Division, RC(S)