Memorial Day is a day set aside in the United States to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. Many of us also remember all the family members and loved ones who have also gone on before us. Some will decorate graves with flags and flowers.
Sometimes, I wonder. Is one day enough to pay our respects to our military families, or the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice? Shouldn’t we be thinking of them, praying for them, and showing our appreciation every day?
When I was growing up, we would visit my grandparent’s home in Iowa during the summer. In one corner, grandma had a little display area where she kept photos of my step-uncle, along with his medals and the flag that draped his coffin. He died when I was a toddler, so I never had the chance to meet him. Grandma would tell us stories of Johnnie, and we would always look at his bedroom upstairs, which was decorated exactly as it was when he left for Vietnam. Whenever Jonathan and I have been to Washington, DC, we always stop by the Vietnam Wall on a night tour. All 4 times we have taken this tour, it is either foggy and freezing cold, or raining. The weather makes this visit very emotional every time. But I wonder, is an occasional visit to a monument honoring these men and women enough?
Right now, my youngest brother is serving in the Army. He has been deployed for the past 10 months, leaving his wife and three sons state-side. I am loving the fact that they are in Minnesota, although with our winter, I’m not sure they are as thrilled! Although I haven’t been able to see them in person as much as I’d like, I have gotten to know them a little better. It is difficult for the extended families to really get to know the children of military families when they are living so far away. I feel blessed that we’ve been able to connect with our nephews this year.
While we have been able to connect with our nephews, my brother has missed out on many of their milestone events. They are fortunate that Bruce has been able to come home for short visits a couple of times, but that doesn’t make up for the things he’s missed.
What this year has taught me, is how important it is to support the military families as well as those who are deployed. My sister-in-law is a single parent to these three very active boys while her husband is away. I have always admired the way Heidi gets the boys involved in sports, and takes them off base to explore the area they are in. She has also gotten involved in spouse groups (mostly other women, but there’s been a few men as well), and has been active in running groups, and Bible studies. While in Minnesota, though, they have not had the advantage of living on a military base where everyone is pretty much in the same situation.
It seems as though people really can’t grasp the scope of the impact a deployment has on a family. There have been some incredibly insensitive comments from “friends” of hers on Facebook that are quite appalling. Once again, I have to admire Heidi, and the way she handles these people. This makes me wonder, is saying “Thank You” one day a year really enough?
Today, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of emotional photos and memes telling us how we need to remember the fallen, and thank those who are currently serving. It is good to spread that message, but how many of those who are posting these memes today will shake the hand of a soldier tomorrow? How many of us have sent an encouraging word to the military spouses who are being single parents while their husband or wife are deployed? How many of us have volunteered to watch their children so they can have a day to relax? How many of us have helped to mow lawns, or shovel driveways, or pick up an extra car-pool shift?
Remembering the fallen on Memorial Day is good. But sometimes, saying thank you to those who are currently serving just seems inadequate. Please, take the time to show your appreciation throughout the year.