Barbeque’s, family time and TV specials. Another Memorial Day weekend. Another Memorial Day of looking at countless comments on Facebook about thanking a veteran, showing your troop support and general well wishes to our troops and families.
For me, it’s another day of remembering. A day of wanting the troop’s home, praying for their safety and wishing their families to be granted the strength and faith to withstand the sacrifices made. It’s a normal day for me.
You see, I have that luxury of simple prayer and reflection. If you know me, you know that every day is Memorial Day for me. I’m too old to be in the military and my time spent in the Army is long over. Still, I want to do so much more than I am. Sometimes I fear I have not done enough to honor the sacrifices being made by our military. Sometimes I am ashamed that I let opportunities pass me by.
I have given to the Wounded Warrior Project, joined in groups putting together care packages and have donated to various military support groups and causes. For some that can be enough. For me I want to do so much more. Yet opportunities pass me by that can make so much more of an impact.
Seeing that soldier, sailor, airmen or marine walking down the street or in the mall should propel me into a personal showering of gratitude upon each of them. But too often I let it pass. Feeling corny, apprehensive of the reaction from them, worried that I may become too emotional and embarrass myself, THINKING too much that the moment passes, gone.
Ashamed and frustrated, I let these opportunities pass by. I long to have an impact, take action and, without restraint, show all our service members how much I appreciate who they are and all they do. I long to leave them with the feeling that they are truly supported, understood and thought of not just on designated days like Memorial Day but every day. They must be assured that as I sit in my decorated yard, eating a hotdog, I know they are sitting in a desert eating MRE’s. They should know that though I am surrounded by the noise and laughter of my family, I pause often to remember that they only have images and memories of those they left behind. I take moments to honor them. I remind my children of their sacrifice. I begin to see that the impact I yearn for, the one that carries forward and is so vital to our troops, are forming In the words I write. I recognize my inner restraints and can choose to let them go. The moment -the opportunity – to reach out and say “Thank you” will pass by ONLY if I let it. I have taken action and can now move forward and hope that I have made a difference; to the soldier I meet, the unit he returns to, the families who worry and perhaps, even the nation they have dedicated their lives to. My inner battles will not – cannot – prevent me from remembering that their sacrifice may, in fact, be the ultimate one.
I challenge you to do more. Take actions that ensure our service members and their families feel our respect, concern and appreciation. Do more than post in Facebook or click a like button. If you can donate, do so. Get involved with a local organization to send packages or letters. And if – or should I say when – you get a chance to thank a veteran in person, don’t let that moment pass. It is not easy, but I ask that you stop thinking “should I” or “do they want to be bothered” or “who am I to approach them”. Keep your focus on them and the voice of insecurity will relent. If you are like me, tears may begin to well and words may not come out as planned, but we cannot feel ashamed or embarrassed, for as quickly as those feelings may surface, so will fortitude and inner peace. Making an impact requires strength; emotions are often the only force that moves us to take action.
We can, and must, do more than post comments from our den or office and as I bring this message to an end to join my family, I think about the most important word within this article – sacrifice. Each moment a service member spends away from home, each march they make or person they help is testament to their daily sacrifice. Help them know it does not go unnoticed. Reach out. Take action. Sacrifice appearances and show your appreciation to the service member in front of you. They will carry it with them. Don’t let the moment, the opportunity, pass by; know that offering thanks to those serving is the best way to honor the memory of those, whose sacrifice was their last.