As we solemnly walk amongst the crowds at Arlington with the long white rows surrounding us, people catch his eye and say “Thanks for your service”. Although he is proud, he is also uncomfortable as he says “You’re welcome”. This uniform he’s wearing is still new to him and he’s a humble man who doesn’t feel as though he’s done anything yet to deserve their thanks.
But Memorial Day isn’t about those currently serving, or even the veterans, anyway. Or is it?
Let’s start by quickly discerning the difference between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. Memorial Day is only for those who have given their lives in the line of duty while serving their country. Veteran’s Day honors all who have previously served.
So on Memorial Day weekend, amongst our cookouts, beach trips, and furniture store sales- our focus should be on remembering those who lost their lives serving and praying for their families (known as Gold Star families). We typically do this by decorating our cemeteries with flags, visiting memorials, and attending parades.
But what else can we do? Most of us don’t even know a Gold Star family, so what can we do?
I think you can thank those currently serving. Here’s why:
Because although they haven’t had to give their life for their country yet, they already said they would. When they signed those papers and when they took that oath, they knew what it might cost them and they did it anyway.
And their families who love and support them, live every day of their lives knowing full well what the cost of that decision may one day mean.
I am thankful to report that on our military journey thus far we haven’t had to face that harsh reality. We haven’t had to say goodbye to someone we know and care about.
But I know the fear. I will never forget sitting poolside on a beautiful sunny day, chatting with friends, while our children played nearby. We were all military spouses, all with husbands deployed together. As someone scrolled through Facebook, a headline caught their attention. A helicopter from our husbands unit had crashed.
Stomachs dropped, hearts pounded, the fear was palatable, especially since one spouse’s husband had told her he would be traveling that day. Luckily we discerned after just a couple of minutes (that seemed like absolutely forever) that by nothing short of a miracle, everyone had survived.
We were the lucky ones. Not everyone is. That taste, that brief moment of not knowing and thinking the worst, was enough to make me fully appreciate every time he walks back through that door. It was an instant where everything could have turned out so much differently.
And that’s why this weekend, I will remember those who have given that ultimate sacrifice. I will pray for their friends and families who still grieve and miss them. And I will also make sure to thank both the veterans and those who are currently serving.
PS- If you are looking for ideas on how you can say thanks to those in the military community, check this out!