Remembering What Matters on Memorial Day

On Memorial Day, all Americans should think about the sacrifices made by military service members, their spouses, and their children.  Instead, many Americans spend it as a day off of work, having a barbeque or watching baseball games.  American Thinker asked some former and current members of the military to consider what Memorial Day means to them.

Many military families talk about the importance of the day but do not reflect on the actual meaning of this holiday.  As Sam, a military spouse noted, "there are a lot of Gold Star Families in our neighborhood.  In seeing that, my children are reminded each and every day that their mom might not come back from Afghanistan.  I don't want the children focusing on the sadness and the specifics of that day."

A military mom, Lieutenant Colonel Laura Dawson, an Army orthopedic surgeon, currently stationed in Afghanistan, dedicates this holiday to all "the young people who we have lost in this operation as well as the other wars.  These are not just young people, but are some of the very best and brightest in America.  They willingly go in harm's way to protect this country, their families, and their fellow soldiers.  These are driven young men and women who no doubt would have been successful in our society as civilians: people of strong moral fiber, hardworking, and overall good people who would have continued to contribute to the greatness of this nation after their days of military service were completed.  From a medical provider/surgeon perspective, it's gut-wrenching to see these young people die or become disfigured.  It's crushing to know you could not save them.  For me, Memorial Day is dedicated to honor their ultimate sacrifice and reflect on how great a price we have paid with the loss of these incredible young people."

Jack Jacobs, a retired Army colonel and a Medal of Honor recipient for his actions during the Vietnam War, believes that for a lot of veterans, each and every day is Memorial Day.  He was upset that Fleet Week, an outreach to the American people, was canceled because of the budgetary constraints.  He saw this outreach as a way to have Americans reflect on the sacrifices made by service people and to understand the "freedoms they enjoy.  I am a fan of universal service and want Americans to come to grips with the sacrifices made by those who came before us and in this war.  Hillel observed, 'If not you, who? If not now, when?' This holiday shows the importance of Americans who volunteered and paid the ultimate sacrifice to make sure Americans maintain their freedom."

Dan Hampton, the author of Viper Pilot and an Air Force fighter pilot during the Iraqi Wars, is hoping that on Memorial Day, "we will put down the damn barbecue tongs or turn off the TV for a few moments to at least think about those who have died for us to be free.  Personally, I have a mental list that has grown considerably over the years of the men that I knew that are no longer here.  I am also thinking of the four brave people who died in Benghazi.  Those guys saw black and white and tried to do the honorable thing of saving American lives.  Their deaths were preventable.  People need to account for those four deaths instead of hushing it up and trying to erase their memory."

Retired Colonel David Sutherland told American Thinker how he thinks about the loss of his 110 crew members in Iraq as a brigade commander.  "I dedicate this day to my family of 5004.  Americans need to think that those who were lost are not battle points, but are individuals.  I want Americans to focus on the fact that those who lost their lives made a significant difference and had accomplished major achievements in Iraq."

Emily lost her husband in 2011.  She has a range of emotions on Memorial Day, from anger to sadness.  "When my husband died, I had two kids to support, and I felt like the Army just gave me their normal little spiel of how things are done.  But again, I ended up in a job that I love.  I just know there are probably other moms in similar situations that feel like they don't know what to do.  On Memorial Day since David has died, I'm very sad that he's not here.  I miss him every day, but on this day it's a little more prevalent in my mind, and it reminds me that he's really gone.  It just hits closer to home.  I know of people who have died in the war, and I know there are many people that are honored on Memorial Day, but I never knew someone this close to me.  I never expected it to hit so close to home or to happen to me."

Samantha says that her husband, an active-duty Marine, thinks about the men who died in his unit.  She watches as he, on the days of his fellow Marines' deaths, pulls out articles and contacts their families to let them know they are still thought of. 

David, a major in the Air Force Reserves whose job is to get the critically wounded to a medical facility, thinks about a particular incident.  As part of the critical care transport team, he had some soldiers on life support and was taking them to Germany to meet their families "so they could essentially say good-bye before the plug was pulled.  Sometimes I get upset that Americans do not seem to pay attention to what is happening in Afghanistan.  People hear about the deaths but don't connect the individual and only see the numbers.  Americans need to remember that there is a price paid of lives and limbs so they can have their privileges."

Memorial Day is designated as a day of remembrance, where no one should forget that those who died were individuals who will no longer be able to celebrate a birthday, an accomplishment, or a special family event.  On this somber day, people need to take a moment out of their lives and think about the ultimate sacrifice made by those who have served so Americans can maintain their lifestyles.

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.

If you experience technical problems, please write to