Memorial Day and Active Remembrance

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Memorial Day is a tough holiday for me, and many others.  While I’m grateful that our country has set aside a day to honor the fallen – the act of doing so is highly personal, and can be difficult and emotional for many.

But that’s not the real reason that it’s tough for me.  It took me years to really understand why, but there’s actually two distinct factors that I’ve narrowed it down to that make it hard.  They might not be what you think, but I suspect I’m not alone in my feelings.

• Despite my best efforts, each passing year is a reminder that I remember less and less of friends that I’ve lost.  It’s been over a decade since I last put on a uniform, and I find once vivid memories starting to fade over time.  The important stuff, like favorite jokes and mannerisms, nights spent out on the town as a young man, etc., are less and less complete.  While I know this is natural, it’s still a tough pill to swallow, as I know it will continue over time. Just like the below picture with Ben Tiffner, taken when we were cadets – I don’t know what we were doing, just that we were having fun.

• It highlights the divide between the military and the rest of the population.  Don’t take this the wrong way – I think most Americans appreciate and support the military, and many bend over backwards to honor our nation’s fallen on Memorial Day.  I truly appreciate it and am grateful in a deeply personal way, especially given the way previous generations of veterans were treated. The part that is difficult is that it also highlights to me the distance from the wars that most Americans have.  In my non-military circle of friends, the majority don’t personally know a single person who has deployed…it’s just not as personal to them. And it’s not their fault. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

This brings me to the reason for this blog, and the silver lining.  At Team RWB, we have always had a bias for action…for doing things.  And the above bullets I’ve laid out can be addressed by taking action, and there’s power in numbers.  

So today, on Memorial Day, I’d ask each and every person to consider doing two things:

• Spend some time with your family, and enjoy the day, but do something meaningful as well.  Do a hard workout (like Murph), go to a cemetery and lay down flags, volunteer, etc.  The specific act is less important than the act of doing it.

• If you know a service member who has given their life, tell someone about them.  Find a person who doesn’t know them, and share their story.  This active remembrance is how we can keep their memory alive, and it can be cathartic, as well.  If you don’t know someone personally who has made the ultimate sacrifice, take a few minutes to look up/learn about someone with whom you have a personal connection – went to your high school, was from your current place of residence, etc.  

Active remembrance is important.  Had my father not done this with me, my boys would not know the story of his highschool friend, Robert Lajko. (see below).

In doing the above, please have a safe, meaningful Memorial Day weekend.  I hope to see some of you as you pay tribute in your own personal way, and am confident that together we can keep the memories of our fallen alive.