Contact the Author |

28 May

“Happy Memorial Day!”

No, it isn’t.

On Memorial Day, most of us look forward to a longer weekend, the opening of the local pool, and maybe a cookout. All of those things are good, and there is nothing wrong with looking forward to them. But we can’t let that eclipse the meaning of the weekend, because for at least the ten percent of the population who have ever served in the military, the day has a much more somber meeting.
Memorial Day was created to remember the lives lost defending the ideals of this country. We can argue all we want about the legitimacy of the reasons for sending young people into harm’s way, but what is beyond reproach is that so many of them made the ultimate sacrifice, and that sacrifice needs to be remembered.

On Memorial Day, I think about Megan. Megan was the first person besides myself that I was ever responsible for in a military sense. I was a sophomore at the United States Naval Academy, and she was my plebe; it was my job to train her and guide her regarding her military education. I did the best I could, and (in spite of that) Megan graduated and went on to be a United States Marine. She left active duty in 2004, but stayed in the reserves and volunteered to go to Iraq. In the last month of a year long deployment, she and two other Marines were killed when an improvised explosive device destroyed the vehicle in which they were riding. She was the first female Marine officer killed in action in Iraq, and the first female graduate of the US Naval Academy ever killed in action. (Sadly, a month later there was a second).

Anyone who has served in the military has a Megan story. It comes with the job. Memorial Day is our day to remember and share those stories, and honor the sacrifice of those who stood up and volunteered to give service and then found themselves somewhere they probably would rather have not been.

For me it doesn’t stop with Megan. I have several classmates no longer with us due to their chosen profession. While only one was killed in combat, several others died in what we call an “operational loss.” They died in training or on deployment while doing their job, but the word “loss” still applies. They aren’t here anymore, because they chose to do a difficult job and do their part to protect their (our) country, and they died for it.

I’m not a combat vet, and would never pretend to be; I have a level of respect for combat vets that lies somewhere between complete and utter admiration and what I reserve for God almighty. But even without being a combat vet, there is a list of names that goes with faces I see every Memorial Day (and a host of other days throughout the year besides).

So, to Megan, AJ, Mike, Frank, Todd, Kylan, Matt, Hooks, and Robbie, I say, “Thank you,” for your sacrifice, and for just being you as long as you were here. And I say, “I will not remember that you died, but that you lived.”

Many of my friends and comrades are combat vets, and their “Megan list” goes much longer than mine. Please remember that when you say “Happy Memorial Day,” to a vet, for them it’s not.   Instead, maybe try, “Just wanted you to know, I remember what this day is about.” Or, “Thank you for remembering Memorial Day,” because you can bet no vet forgets.  Or you could ask them whom they think about on this day.  When we remember our comrades lost, they live on a little longer.

Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy the three day weekend.  It’s just that the price our friends paid for it isn’t worth it. We would rather have them here and go to work on Monday.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.