When we start talking about Memorial day the conversation is usually paired with vacations, the smell of BBQ’s, neighborhood gatherings and the always a welcomed day off come Monday. In technical terms, yes, Memorial day is indeed a holiday meant to be celebrated. I’ve always cringed a little when people tell me to “have a happy memorial day“. Why? because you appreciate the sentiment. You appreciate the kind words, but as a former member of the military you can’t help but feel a pit of pain in your stomach.
You see, not everyone gets to enjoy a neighborhood BBQ with friends and family. Not everyone whose served their country will have a day off to take a long road trip with their loved ones. On one end we recognize those selfless men and women who died to protect the country they loved, so that we could carry on with our families and our freedom. Still, there will always be a piece of you that doesn’t want to celebrate. So excuse me if I flinch. I appreciate your kind words but I immediately think of those families left behind, who for them Memorial day is a reminder of what they’ve lost. When someone asks you to pay attention to the significance of Memorial day and the different between Veterans day it’s not meant to offend you. There is such a deep appreciation for those who love and honor our military like they deserve. Veterans day is for those who are still here, Memorial day is a special day meant to remember those who never made it home and those who are no longer here with us.
Serving my country is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I won’t take credit for making that decision all on my own. In my family there is a long history of service, one that I am so proud to be a part of. My father and my grandfathers have been direct influences on my life and my love for this great country. I wanted to take a moment to honor a few of the great men in my life who are no longer here. All of whom served our country proudly.
Pictured first is my great grandfather great grandpa Doyal Henderson (Speck) with my great grandma Ediwina (Mimi) in his Marine Corp uniform. My great grandfather fought int the South Pacific. I was lucky enough to know him most of my life. My great grandparents love story is my favorite. They met when they were in the 3rd grade. Back then you had to be 21 to get married. Well they just couldn’t wait that long so they drove across the border from New Mexico to Oklahoma and lied about their age. She was just 17 and he was 19. They stayed happily married until they both passed away in their 90’s.
My great grandfather Valdemar Sorensen served in the Army. He had an incredible career in the military. Even though he didn’t have a college degree he was given the opportunity to stay in for 30 years, retiring as Chief Warrant Officer (CWO3). I guess I followed in his steps by choosing the Army just like my dad. He was an incredible man who left a profound mark on my life. I was reminded of his heart recently when my family flew to Texas to remember him. Listening to Taps play outside of the church he attended, with my great grandmother for a majority of their life, was heartbreaking. But I know he was with us watching over all of us proud of his service to his country and his family.
The third picture is my grandfather Jackson Henderson. Now, that is a man I could tell you stories about for hours. My grandpa Jack was 18 when he fought in the Vietnam War for the Marine Corp. A month into his deployment and just 5 days shy of his 19th birthday he was shot in the head. I almost missed the chance to know my grandfather, but by the grace of God he survived. He was presumed dead and was being loaded onto a helicopter with the other bodies of American soldiers who died on the battlefield, when a medic noticed his index finger twitching. It was the only thing he could move. I wish I could thank that medic. He was so proud of his service and loved the Marines. We all miss him so much, but we are able to live through the legacy he left behind for his family.
My great grandfather Harold Fallstrom is pictured last and not pictured my great grandfather Neil Laughead.
Harold served in the Marines during World War II and received a purple heart. My great grandpa Neil served in the Army to protect his country during the Korean War. Again I was blessed to get to know both of them growing up. They were two of the sweetest men I have every known. My grandpa Neil continued to serve his community by becoming a firefighter. I was too young to understand how important our veterans were and are, but I hope they both know how loved and thankful we all are. This country rests upon the service of heroes past and present who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. While I was blessed enough to know all of my great grandfathers and grandfathers after them who served, they sacrificed their time, their childhood, their mental well being and so much more. Just as my great grandmothers and grandmothers sacrificed right along with them.
So please, celebrate Memorial day, but remember why you are celebrating. Remember who sacrificed so that you have the freedom to celebrate. Take a moment during your BBQ to pray, to stand silently and to honor those who deserve it most. While you are on your long road trips, maybe talk to your kids about their family legacy and those who have served and explain to them why we honor our military. If you see a veteran don’t tell them happy memorial day, instead stand with them for a moment. Listen to their story and know their heart is hurting. Yes they are here, but too many of their friends and comrades didn’t make it back and there will be a piece of them that is missing because of that.
Lastly, my amazing dad who has served 20+ years in the Army shared these videos with me. If you have a few minutes today, or this weekend I encourage you to watch them.
Laisse les bons temps rouler