Four years after my Afghanistan service, not a day goes by that I don’t think about my time over there. Prior to my deployment, Memorial Day meant a parade, a family barbecue, and a long holiday weekend. But now I know it will forever embody more than I’ll ever be able to adequately express. It represents friends lost, lives changed, and memories of tremendous importance. It is a day of profound reflection, when we remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice — allowing them to live on in our hearts and prayers — and those who continue to protect us.
Each Memorial Day I no longer think on parades or barbecues, but of the men and women still in harms way, fighting on our behalf. This Memorial Day, especially, my thoughts are with my cousin Brian, a Marine, deployed to Southern Afghanistan; my old unit, the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, New York Army National Guard, which redeployed this past month to Afghanistan; and my best friend Craig, who will return to Afghanistan later this month for another year’s tour. I pray for their safe return and for their families — that in the near future they will reunite on many Memorial Day’s to come and celebrate with quiet reflection and a joyous barbeque.
Thus, this Memorial Day, I ask that you take a moment during your celebrations to remember the men and women who gave us and continue to give us cause to reflect each end of May. And, if you happen to encounter a veteran, a simple look in the eye and a “welcome home and thank you” will mean more to them than you’ll ever know. Finally, though my mood will be somber, please enjoy your weekend — knowing you’re safe and happy is the greatest peace you can give to those who serve.