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4 Veterans on the Meaning of Memorial Day and Honoring Our Fallen Heroes
McKinstry is home to dozens of America’s Veterans who have transitioned from military service. 4 Veterans on the meaning of Memorial Day and how we can honor our fallen heroes this weekend and every day:
“Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who died in service to our country. When I was younger, I used to associate the holiday as another day off from school, summer BBQs, and huge discounts and sales at the store – but a few life experiences after college changed that for me.
Since June 25, 2011, I now think of my college teammate every year and pray that she’s okay on Memorial Day as she remembers her late husband who died as a hero in Afghanistan months after their wedding, at 24 years old. I think of my classmate who passed away during his deployment less than one year after we finally hit our milestone graduation from West Point. I think of all the Gold Star families – mothers, fathers, siblings, wives, husbands, children, friends – who visit graves on Memorial Day and reminisce all the moments they had together before their loved one paid the ultimate sacrifice.
My relationship with the holiday has deepened throughout the years as I got to know others and their stories. I’m hoping my contribution to this article doesn’t make others feel obligated to celebrate the holiday a certain way, but I do hope it gives perspective and encourages people to be more cognizant of what Memorial Day means to others. I appreciate that McKinstry has taken the time to ask what this holiday means to me.
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There are several ways we can honor the fallen – some volunteer to place American flags on graves of military personnel in national cemeteries, while others complete a ‘workout of the day’ (WOD) in honor of someone they know who passed away. There are also organizations that are dedicated to remembering service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice – like Wear Blue: Run to Remember.
There is a Memorial Day Wear Blue: Run to Remember event the organization hosts every year, and anyone can participate at any location. Registrants will receive an email with the name and story of a fallen service member, a ‘Hero Match,’ and they can run or walk to honor them with their steps. ‘Wherever you live, wherever you are, join us as we, together, serve as a living memorial to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice that guarantees our freedoms. Run or walk with us in-person or virtually this Memorial Day.’”
*Rachel served in the Army as a Military Police Officer for 11 years.
“Memorial Day is a day to honor the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the service to our country. We celebrate as a way to remember & honor them so that they will live on forever in our hearts and in our minds. We focus on the great things they have done and the great memories that were created serving alongside them.”
*Eric served for 20 years in the United States Marine Corps.
“Memorial Day to me is a reminder to look at the past and the present and take a moment to honor those who have served and are still serving with our thoughts. All service members freely make sacrifices, the most common one being their time and the distance between family and friends.
For me, the biggest way we can honor those serving or who have served is to reach out to their families and see if they need any support. The service members give so much, but their families are the ones left behind to make sure they have a home to come back to. And for those who don’t make it back, their families must continue on with that sacrifice for the rest of their lives. So, if you know anyone who has served, or is still serving, reach out to them and give them some of what they so freely have given, your time.”
*Whitney served in the US Navy for 8 years as a Nuclear Machinist Mate. She was one of the first Enlisted Female Military Members to ever serve on a Submarine and was on the USS Ohio.
“For me Memorial Day is deeply personal, it is a time for reflection on our shared values and figuring out how to best share those with the people not only of our nation but with the whole of humanity.
The best way I know how to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and those who are out there sacrificing today is to take advantage of the freedoms they bought and are buying for us. So have a barbecue, hang out with friends, play cornhole, go water skiing, create Memorial Day traditions and enjoy life to fullest, because that is the purpose of the sacrifice.”
*Andy served in the United States Air Force for 21 years.