Today is Memorial Day. For many, Memorial Day is only about backyard BBQ’s and lazy days on the beach. I’ve had my fair share of both. However, having spent two decades in the military as a cadet, soldier, and spouse, I know all too well what Memorial Day is really about.
My first experience with losing a dear friend and comrade came on May 28th, 2004. It was Memorial Day weekend, and my family and I were visiting relatives in western North Carolina. The weekend was harshly interrupted when we got a call that our brother in arms, CPT Dan Eggers, was killed in Afghanistan. We soon made our way back to Fort Bragg where we were stationed with Dan’s family. Then my husband quickly left for Dover Air Force Base where he would meet up with Dan’s casket and escort his remains to Arlington National Cemetery.
Now, ten years later, I am again remembering a comrade, this time a sister in arms. My West Point classmate and Army Crew teammate, LTC Jaimie Leonard, was killed June 8th, 2013. This Memorial Day we celebrated her life and military service by dedicating a boat bearing her name to the current Women’s Army Crew Team. We also participated in the first annual HERo’s Run in her home state of New York.
My husband and I have lost other friends and comrades over the years, to include SSG Michael Simpson who died May 1st, 2013. Mike was killed while serving with my husband on a deployment that few of our C Company families will ever forget. Like our friend Dan, Mike left behind a wife and two young sons. Over the years, Krista’s boys, not yet school age, will rely on pictures, video, memorabilia, and, most importantly, stories from friends and family in order to have a sense of who their father was.
I am not the kind of person who tends to live in the past. It’s harmful to our health and well-being to get stuck in the pain and heartache we’ve crossed paths with over the years. At the same time, I do believe it is important to remember. First and foremost, our remembering honors the families who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice. Those of us who knew their loved ones, surely play an important role in keeping their service member’s memory alive. For those of you who may not have any connection to the military, your remembrance matters as well. In some of my most intimate moments with Gold Star Families (families of fallen service members), I’ve learned that a heartfelt letter from a complete stranger, a grateful citizen, can mean so very much. Lastly, we might all consider how we contribute individually and collectively to this nation and our world. Start simple and think of how you can use your unique gifts to make a difference in your own family, impact your community, and positively contribute to society.
In 2010, my friend LTC Jaimie Leonard wrote what now seems like a prophetic article about Memorial Day for her hometown newspaper. She wrote, “It is my wish this Memorial Day that you consider your duties as citizens. The duty goes beyond serving in the Armed Forces, jury duty, taxes or voting. Your duties are to each other, not some esoteric concept. Remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country in war, but also honor those others who sacrifice in other ways to make this country great – law enforcement, firefighters, teachers, volunteers, etc. Please honor them in deed and not just giving thanks, parades, or planting flowers or flags on graves. Take measure of what have you done for your country and ask yourself if you could do more.”
May you all enJOY your Memorial Day and take a moment to consider how you can be a true HERo in Deed.
Watch this touching video featuring Krista Simpson. Hear her story and learn about a special organization called Wear Blue: Run to Remember
Listen as Rebecca Eggers tells about her unforgettable Memorial Day in 2004:
Categories: The Warrior's Journey