Opinion: What Memorial Day Means to Me

This weekend, Americans will pause to remember and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, laying down their lives in service to us here at home.

It’s perfectly fine to spend this holiday like others, attending a backyard party or just savoring a day off. But this day is somber for many.

As a combat veteran, I’m filled with many memories and emotions on Memorial Day.

We’ve all heard it said that the cost of war is not only in dollars but in lives affected. The truth behind that statement is a painful, visceral reality for many. Those who gave their last full measure have left an unfillable hole with their families, their friends, and their communities.

It is staggering to consider the immense loss of life we memorialize – every name or grave marker represents a lifetime of experiences cut short. Distant battlefields have robbed us of untapped potential our society can never know. We are left to imagine who those young people might have been or what they might have done had they returned home.

As we honor and mourn those lost, we also remember and celebrate who they were. They were sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, wives, and husbands. They were friends, neighbors, and coworkers. They came from every walk of life you can imagine.

The brothers in arms I’ve lost were some of the most amazing people I’ve ever known. Remembering them gives me a sense of tremendous pride. They knew the risk, but they went into harm’s way and gave of themselves for a greater purpose.

It is an amazing country we live in where people are willing to answer the call of service to protect and provide for others. Throughout history, those women and men in uniform have ensured we at home remain free and prosperous.

For their sacrifice, I’m proud of those I knew and those I didn’t know. I’m proud I had the privilege to wear the same uniform they did. I’m proud that generations to come will do the same.

As we pause on Memorial Day, I hope you’ll join me in a renewed commitment to service – a commitment to live a life worthy of the sacrifice that’s been made for each of us. If brave women and men are willing to lay down their lives for people they will never meet, consider what you are willing to do.

I believe in my heart service isn’t limited to wearing a uniform. All of us can make a difference by working to improve the lives of others.

So, celebrate Memorial Day any way you desire – sleep in, cook out with friends, enjoy the outdoors, have a cold beer, or attend one of the many ceremonies in your communities. But please also take pride knowing from the United States have emerged brave souls willing to serve, fight, and sacrifice for us.

Celebrate the freedoms we have, but never forget what they cost.

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