Memorial Day (originally known as Decoration Day) is a federal holiday that is set aside to recognize and mourn the US personnel who have died while serving in the Unites States Armed Forces. Many people mistake what Memorial Day is, and end up thanking a solder who is currently serving in the military. Why that is absolutely fine to always thank those who serve, that primarily should be reserved for Armed Services Day (earlier in May) or Veterans Day in November.
I have learned a few do's and don'ts over the years when it comes to Memorial Day. First, never say "Happy Memorial Day." There is nothing Happy about losing a loved one while serving in the military. Second, don't get hung up on how somebody died while serving, and try to somehow rank somebody as more important. While it is very significant that somebody might have perished during a battle, it is just as significant for the family of a fallen soldier to be recognized that their son or daughter (brother or sister) paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country, no matter how they perished. For example my son died in an auto accident while serving active duty in the Army. His death is no less significant in the grand scope of things, than a son who died as a result of stepping on an IED. Trust me I know there are those out there that like to argue that point, but we will leave it at honoring those who have passed before us while serving this country faithfully. Third, don't disregard its importance. The more that we dismiss something, the less the next generation wants to acknowledge this. Finally, if you know a family who had a loved one die while serving in the US Armed Forces, acknowledge that with them. I have found that a great way to do this is if you are local to where they are buried, go visit the grave site. I know that many soldiers are buried in Arlington National Cemetery, as well as other Veterans cemeteries, but if local, drop by and visit their grave.
I am sure you are wondering about the title to this blog. Everything in my life is marked in BD or AD. Before David died (BD), and After David died (AD). When you lose a child (especially one that you have some history and pictures of for almost 22 years), there is a breaking point in your life. It is not uncommon from the trauma to have PTSD, which I did. I thought that only affected soldiers who served overseas. I have worked through that for the most part, and have moved on to the Post Traumatic Growth phase. The point of the title is that most people have the advantage and privilege to just acknowledge Memorial Day one day a year in May. They might show respect, and thank a family whose relative paid the ultimate sacrifice, but then they get to move on to the barbeque and soon forget. I don't get that privilege. For me, Memorial Day is like the movie Groundhog Day. I wake up each day and relive it over and over again. I was talking to a friend of mine today at lunch who also lost a son, and he said that years 2 and 3 are some of the hardest, because people forget about your son who passed. I can relate with that as a month or so ago, I was talking to somebody and I said that 2021 was the worst year of my life. His response was, "Why?" Uhhhh....I was speechless, as it is so obvious to me everyday what I am confronted with, but not to others. No guilt or condemnation on anybody, I just thought it might be good to bring this to light ahead of Memorial Day. Not for myself, but for all of the other personnel who passed away while serving in the US Armed Forces.
There are many families who don't get the closure of their loved one returning from war. There are many POW/KIA/MIA situations. I was just reading yesterday about a niece who was able to bury her uncle in Arlington. He had passed away in South Korea during the Korean War, but was buried over there in an unmarked mass grave. They were able to bring him back and do DNA testing to identify his remains. She now has closure. In addition to that scenario, many have returned from war and are faced with PTSD (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc). For many they succumb to their PTSD and die by suicide. The rate of Veterans dying from suicide is 22 a day. That is a shocking number that needs to be stopped by getting these men and women the help and support they need. I am a big believer in the work that the Til Valhalla Project does in trying to mitigate this (www.tilvalhallaproject.com).
In conclusion, awareness is priceless if you are a person who wants to advance and improve in this life. Be aware of some of the facets of Memorial Day ahead of that special day next month. Remember to honor those who have passed while volunteering to serve this incredible country. They are the watchmen on that wall safeguarding the security of our country! Thank you David for serving in the United States Army, and all of your fellow brothers and sisters in arms who have passed while serving before and after you!