This is my first post on the Wildflowers Ranch Blog. In fact, it is my first piece of writing, ever, to be made generally available to the public. But when my wife invited me to write about Memorial Day, I felt two things. First, I was honored she asked, and second, I felt somewhat obligated. Memorial Day holds a significant meaning in my family, and I felt that to decline to say a few words about the day and what it represents would be… remiss.
I come from a military and patriotic family. I’m only the most recent in a long line of generations that have served these United States. My father is a U.S. Marine, as am I. I served for 7 years, mostly within the small community of Marine Reconnaissance. I left active duty in 2009 after serving as a Platoon Commander with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion with two deployments to Operation Iraqi Freedom. I still serve as a police officer at a local department, where I continue to work in special operations as a member of several different specialized teams. I mention this at my extreme discomfort, and not for accolades or any sort of acknowledgement. I bring it up only to ensure you that my perspective on Memorial Day comes from real world, personal experience.
You see, Memorial Day is not a day to honor Veterans of the military. That day is called Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day to remember those men and women who gave their lives during their military service to this nation. Yes, I served, and continue to. I was but a blip on the radar of one of the most highly decorated and storied units in the United States Marine Corps, but I was there. Both in the military and law enforcement I’ve walked amongst heroes, some of them who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives for this great nation.
I’ve also been all over this big, big world that we live in. I can tell you, with unbiased certainty, that The United States of America is, without a doubt, the greatest nation on Earth. I love America, with every fiber of my being. But don’t think it’s a blind love. I’ve seen war. I’ve seen bitter poverty, destruction, and evil. I’ve seen the desperation of people plagued with fear, disease, and hunger. And I’ve seen that here too, in our country. But in this Country, in the United States, we have hope.
We have hope because we have been given the most incredible gift, to have been born here in America, born free. This gift of freedom has been given to us by those men and women, those patriots, who have given their all to keep America alive. And that’s the beauty of Memorial Day: the day doesn’t celebrate political affiliations, foreign policy, or military objectives. It is a day of remembrance to recall the devotion of men and women who have given everything –everything- for this nation, and therefore for you and your freedom. Period.
So when I think of Memorial Day, I think of 1st Lieutenant Nathan Krissoff, who was killed by a roadside bomb while conducting combat operations in Iraq. I think of 1st Lieutenant Travis Manion, who was killed while saving the lives of his fellow Marines during an ambush. And Sgt. Michael Ferschke who was killed during a counter-assault against an enemy ambush. Each of these men, I am proud to have served with and call Brother. Certainly, and to quote Mr. Newton, “If I can see further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
I think of the joy that each of these men had in their hearts and how that joy was displayed every day, with a smile and a lighthearted sense of humor. Each of them faced life head-on, with courage and an enthusiasm for life that was resolute. And I think of the gift that they, along with many, many others, have given me. Freedom! Freedom to live as I choose… I look around at all I have in life, my wife, my Wildflowers, my home, my health, and I owe it all to them. I would not, under any circumstance, take such a gift lightly or without the humble gratitude that it deserves.
But these men, these Marines, would tell you to enjoy the day! Throw some meat on the grill, crack open something cold to drink, and enjoy your family and friends! But take a moment to remember. Memorial Day is a day to reflect, but remember our heroes as they were: happy, dedicated and full of life. They wouldn’t want to spoil the day with sadness and grief or dwell on loss. Remember the heroes that have made possible the life you have. Remember the gift. Don’t squander it.
Semper Fidelis and Happy Memorial Day ya’ll.