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Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, appreciation for sacrifice and profound thanks. To truly feel and appreciate the sacrifices we remember on Memorial Day, we need to make the remembrance personal. Too often, Memorial Day is distant appreciation and remembrance because we do not make the feelings of loss, sacrifice, and appreciation personal.
Watch sunrise at a national cemetery to begin Memorial Day.
A moving and profound way to begin Memorial Day is to watch the sunrise at a National Cemetery. No matter how many times I see row upon row of white gravestone markers of fallen military members, it strikes a deep and moving sense of appreciation. Watching the sunrise of these graves is a moving way to begin the day. Afterwards, walk the graves and say some of the names aloud. Reading the names aloud personalizes the fallen. It’s easy to find a veterans cemetery close to you.
Share your memories of the fallen.
I lost several friends in Iraq and through my years of military service. However, what I spend time telling people how they lived, the type of people that they were and how their friendship still benefits me today.
One friend was an amazing shot with a pistol, rifle or a machine gun. You name it, he could pick it up and shoot it as an expert. When I joined my Special Forces team, I was the worst shot on the whole team. He taught me, painstakingly, how to shoot at an expert level over several months with both US and foreign weapons. To this day, his lesson in the importance of being an expert in your profession and teaching others how to be an expert too was an invaluable personal and professional lesson for me.
These are the stories that I want others to remember about my fallen friends. I want their smiles, their funny stories and the lessons and leadership that they enacted daily to me the memories for others.
Donate directly to families of the fallen.
Remembering the spouses and the children of the fallen is especially important on Memorial Day and throughout the year. The key phrase is to find ways to donate, to mentor, and to employ spouses and children of the fallen. Unmindful donations are easy to do, but there are other ways to help in a meaningful manner. Tutoring a child, supporting a college fund, helping a fallen spouse network and continue a career are all great ways to support the families of the fallen.
Making Memorial Day personal is creating Memorial Day traditions that truly recognize and appreciate the fallen. Remembering those that fell in battle as good, kind, funny, and amazing people creates a deep sense of loss, but a powerful, and unfading appreciation of fallen soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen not as numbers, but as people. Helping surviving family members is a moving step in appreciation to ensure that the families loss is remembered and appreciated so they can move on with their lives. Do all you can to remember at a personal level this Memorial Day.