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Getting to the Real Meaning of Memorial Day

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Did you miss my article over at Military1?

Vietnam Veteran Memorial
A visitor to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial touches the name of a fallen soldier etched on the wall of the memorial in Washington, Friday, May 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Over 6,700 men and women have given their lives in the last ten years of war alone

It’s May – Military Appreciation Month – and Memorial Day is upon us. There’s no doubt in my mind that these two events coincide in the same month because of the continued sacrifices made by our service members and the families of our service members.

My kids have grown up for months on end with a deployed father. They’re used to Dad working 12 or 14 hour days with additional time on weekends spent in the field. Couple that with duty station and school changes, and that’s a lot to put on children’s shoulders.

Then there are those who have paid for our freedom with their lives.

When I was younger, Memorial Day was about the three-day weekend; usually planned and celebrated alongside friends, relishing the sunshine and the break from life. And I know I wasn’t alone in my thinking. So many companies use Memorial Day as a marketing gimmick for backyard grilling, red-tag sales, getaways and more.

Now, I’ve been exposed to our military world for more than a decade and truly know what Memorial Day is about. I know the names and faces of men who have given their lives and paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country’s freedom.

I think about all the letters my husband has written to family members – letting them know how much he thought of their Marine or Corpsman who died in the line of duty. As I write this, over 6,700 men and women have given their lives in the last ten years of war alone.

I think about if it were me. What legacy would I want to leave? What words would I want to impart in my absence?   I know I would want others to live fully. To be grateful for the time they have today. To do things they never thought possible. I would want them to participate in random acts of kindness with strangers and loved ones alike.

I try to put those actions into use in my daily life. When I think about the loved ones who no longer walk beside me, I also try to remember the words of Dr. Seuss, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

So this month of May, with Military Appreciation Month and Memorial Day, remember those who gave their lives so courageously for our country, or those who have been forever changed by war, and pay your gratitude forward.

How?

I encourage you to find a family who is still dealing with the effects of war today. Many of our wounded warriors have been dealt life-changing circumstances and need your help.  If you don’t know where to start, a simple solution is giving to the Semper Fi Fund, rated as one of the best charities by Charity Navigator.

The Semper Fi Fund is changing lives by providing financial assistance, adaptive housing, adaptive vehicles, education, and career opportunities to wounded warriors. All of this helps them return to as normal a life as possible.

Lastly, live fully. Seek out that vacation, have a barbeque or a little getaway — but really connect with your family and friends. Appreciate them fully, even with their flaws, because you are blessed to have them in your life.

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