Memorial Day: Honoring the Ultimate Sacrifice

Who doesn’t love a three-day weekend? Traditionally, Memorial Day has become the unofficial kick off to summer, to relaxing, parades, carnivals and barbeques. I love all those things, and have been a happy participant in all those aspects of this holiday weekend.

I think though that we all sometimes need the reminder or history of what Memorial Day is truly honoring. It is not a holiday for our founding as a nation, for our veterans, for our wars for justice and freedom, but instead to honor, the soldiers who died in service protecting our nation, our values, our freedom. Memorial Day is meant to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

My grandfather died in World War II. He was in a training mission in a bomber and the plane crashed. There were no survivors. He was not in combat yet, but his life was taken in the courageous act of preparation, of new technology, of trial and error. His death hopefully helped save countless others. Ideally making the future bombing raids safer and more successful.

My mother was just a toddler when this happened. She has no memory of him, and was raised lovingly, but yet as an orphan, by her paternal grandparents. Her father was a gravesite, mementos, a few photographs and for many years, unspoken memories because the pain of the loss was too much for stories to be told of who he was, or what he was like. Her life was completely altered the day he died in that plane. He was not able to parent and love and nurture her. Though the tale has more to it, her mother, ultimately started over as well, leaving my mom and her sister for a clean slate without the grief.

I adore my mother. I know so much of who she is, her loving nature, her kindness, and soft spot for every “orphan” she has come to know and try to help, comes from her own losses. Yes, she had a home, and was loved, but she always had the gravestone too, never a real person to be her dad.

I am beyond saddened to think of all the children orphaned by this sacrifice, all the widows and widowers, all the parents forced to endure their children’s untimely deaths. The grief that ebbs but never completely goes away. Regardless of what faith you may or may not have of an afterlife, we still miss our loved ones. We ache for the small moments, the feelings, the hugs, the laughter, and the tears we can never share with them again in this life. In our lives we all experience death, let us acknowledge, this ultimate sacrifice for Country through respecting what these brave souls have done.

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