I am someone who always thanks a veteran or current member of the military. Over the years, when using the very unoriginal line “thank you for your service”, I have often been struck by the gratitude given back to me, merely for saying these 5 words. A quick tangent away from the point I am about to make. I sat down intending to write an entirely different piece, but when I remembered how often someone thanked me for taking 5 seconds out of my day to say thank you to them, I realized there was a far more important message to send on this Memorial Day.
There have been people who have suffered terrible losses in the past few months. There are those who are struggling economically, physically or mentally. There is no way of measuring whose suffering is worse nor is there a way of determining whose perspective is good and whose is bad. But there is no question that there are those among us that would be well served by not only realizing how good they have it, but maybe more importantly showing empathy towards those whose suffering is far greater. How does one do that? Well I speak from personal experience when I say, one very important way is to focus on others more than yourself.
True sacrifice has a ripple effect. While we remember soldiers lost in defense of our nation, we need to acknowledge the families that will always feel their loss, and in many cases suffer real hardships as a result. We need to look past the big story of the day and remember that long after our lives return as much as possible to normal, there will still be children, spouses, parents, relatives and friends who have mourned the loss of a soldier before we were stuck at home, and will continue to do so long after.
There may be far greater repercussions from the crisis we currently face, but if Memorial Day teaches us anything, it’s that you don’t count casualties before the next battle ensues. When FDR said his famous words at his inaugural in 1933, “nothing to fear but fear itself”, the words rang true with many then, as they still do today.
The first 2 sentences of President Roosevelt’s address reads as follows:
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.
Nothing about this piece is intended to be political, so much so that if someone makes it so, they will be missing the entire point. That point being the responsibility of each and every one of us as individuals to step forward in whatever way that we can.
Memorial Day is a gift to the American people. To acknowledge those that made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live in safety and peace, besides being an honor to their lost souls, and we pray a comfort to their loved ones, is also a potential for all of us to gain strength and character. To have the opportunity to look beyond ourselves and focus on another’s pain and hardship has the potential to separate many from the self-indulgence that helps neither themselves nor anyone else. To recognize what someone else gave up for our freedom will hopefully lead us to the understanding of how fortunate most of us are to have the freedom and ability to make our lives better. The gift of Memorial Day is the reminder of how to think about others before we think about ourselves, and to do so may be the greatest honor we can bestow on those who have fallen so that we can live in safety and freedom.
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