Memorial Day changed for me one morning in September. A friend had recruited me to help out with a charity event benefitting families of fallen soldiers. I’m a bit of a yes person when asked to help and this seemed worthy of that response. In has turned out to be one of my meaningful yeses.
At the start of the event, the names of our state’s fallen soldiers from the most recent conflicts in the Middle East were read. We stood in honor of far too many soldiers. The presenter was only to the Bs on the list when I noticed a little boy grab his grandma’s hand and quietly exclaim “daddy” as his father’s name was read. Tears filled my eyes and streamed down my cheeks. The list seemed to never end and all I could think was each name was someone’s child, spouse, or parent.
That little boy reacting to his father’s name gave new meaning to an old holiday. Prior to that precious child, Memorial Day for me was what it still is to many, a holiday. It meant camping out an extra night or going to a BBQ. The significance of the day was lost on me for the most part.
Since that September day, I’ve given more of my time to that organization and I’ve had the honor of meeting gold star families. Through connecting on Facebook I’ve since learned more about their stories and my heart has broken over and over again. These are families have paid steeply and we all owe them our gratitude and respect.
One such family came further down on that list of fallen. I met Karen, a proud Army wife turned widow and single parent. Her husband was supposed to be handling supplies. He was supposed to be in a safe zone. While he returned physically from time served in Kuwait, mentally he never came home. They struggled for over six years with PTSD. He wanted to get better but didn’t know how to.
They struggled for over six years with PTSD. He wanted to get better but didn’t know how to. Karen did all she could, but in the end was married to someone she deeply loved, but no longer knew.
The Army neglected her husband’s needs and he overdosed on the over fifteen prescriptions they had ordered him to take. This family is far from alone as there is an Army of others in this same miserable camp. A legion of soldiers who are not dying while serving, but dying as a result of serving.
Memorial Day for this family is a day to honor daddy. They will visit his grave and that of his uncle’s, who died in Vietnam. These children will grow up knowing the significance of Memorial Day, sadly, they have no other choice.
As you spend time with your family this Memorial Day I would ask that you do so with intention. Pause to reflect on the families who are missing someone they love. Give thanks to those who gave themselves for us without asking for anything in return. Say a prayer for soldiers still struggling to stay with us.
Let none of us ever forget that the holiday exists because of loss, sacrifice, and flag-draped coffins. Along with the warmth of the spring sun, there is grief to be felt on this day.
To read more about Karen’s story click here.