The following is an excerpt from Lessons for Joey: 100 Things I Can’t Wait to Teach My Son. I think this lesson is important all the time, but it rings particularly true this weekend, as we prepare to celebrate Memorial Day. Last year, I was caught off-guard by a comment that was left on the “Happy Memorial Day!” post I made on a Facebook page I manage through work. The comment said it was insensitive to say “happy” on an occasion that should be more respectful of the sacrifices made and lives lost. I can appreciate their sentiment, but I also think Memorial Day should be a day to celebrate those selfless acts and enjoy the freedoms we have as a result. As we attend barbecues this weekend and drink beers with friends and family, let’s not forget the reason why we’re getting together.
Lesson #88 – Be grateful for what our military does for us, not just on holidays…every day.
As Americans, we celebrate a couple military-themed holidays. Memorial Day and Veterans Day are there to remind us of the sacrifices made by the men and women who serve in our armed forces. All four of your great-grandfathers served the United States in some capacity or another. They fought in World War II and Korea. They faced some serious danger and some miserable conditions. One was a prisoner of war. They didn’t do these things because they enjoyed it. They did it for me, for you, and for all the Americans still to be born who will enjoy living in a free country.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t need a holiday to realize how remarkable their service was. I don’t need other people to tell me it’s time to appreciate those men or the hundreds of thousands of men and women who are defending our freedoms as I write this or as you read it. I don’t do it every day. I’m guilty of taking things for granted just like everyone else, but when I pass someone in fatigues, or see a military special on TV, or when I see a Korean War Veterans magazine on Pop-Pop’s coffee table, I am reminded how lucky we are. Thankfully, there are many people who are willing to enter the military and make the necessary sacrifices. I am not sure I would be able to do what they do. To be away from your family and in harm’s way on a daily basis can’t be easy. I’m fortunate I don’t have to.
As a result, I sometimes find myself feeling guilty. Why am I okay with others doing what I admit I don’t want to do? The simple answer is this: I’m not okay with it. Fortunately, there are enough brave men and women who choose to serve that I am able to follow my dreams in a relatively safe and secure homeland. The best way I know how to honor them and show my thanks is to live consciously; knowing that everything I am able to do is a result of the sacrifices of our loved ones, and the many thousands of service people we will never even meet. I try my best not to take those freedoms for granted. I feel the pain of the families who are always worried about the well-being of their loved one. And I try to pay that awareness forward in the way that I raise you. I think, like any other human being, our service people mostly just want to feel loved and appreciated. They want to know the sacrifices they are making are not in vain.
So, the next time you walk through an airport or a shopping mall and you see a soldier in his or her fatigues, say “thank you.” Tell them you appreciate all they do for you and for all Americans. Most of all, let them know they have your support and that you are proud of them. You don’t need a holiday for that.
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