Memorial Day is a somber event.
And short of celebrating the life of a fallen hero, it is not meant to be a “happy” occasion as some who joyfully preface a greeting over this weekend would like us to believe.
As an Army veteran, I’ve had the honor of serving next to our country’s finest, many of whom do it out of a deep love for the nation. I’ve even lost a friend and mentor to combat.
Being a soldier meant participation or attendance as a spectator for annual Memorial Day events through the years, including visiting “The Wall” in Washington, D.C., and the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.
However, the one that stands out to me the most came from my time with the storied 1st Infantry Division in Germany.
Europe allows an opportunity to visit historic battlefields, former concentration camps and parade grounds to gain an appreciation of what those who came before us experienced firsthand.
And nothing – even to this day – struck me like a trip to Normandy Beach in Northern France during the Memorial Day weekend of 2000.
The other thing that has stayed with me since that visit was the admiration and gratitude from the French civilians, especially the elderly, in Normandy and Caen. It wasn’t uncommon for the French to approach us upon hearing our English voices to say thank you.
Of course, we weren’t there in June 1944 during D-Day. But those who survived – soldiers and civilians alike – a battle that changed the world haven’t forgotten what happened.
Sadly, a great generation of heroes is passing before our eyes. Between 800 to 1,000 World War II veterans die every day, the Palm Beach Post reports.
And because we know what transpired in Northern France during “Operation Overlord,” it was a chilling and surreal experience to stand on that hallowed ground, to view the firing lanes from the hills and to visit the cemetery as we lay a wreath at the 1st ID Memorial, some of which I share below in photos I took during that special visit.
So as you potentially gather with family or friends this weekend, I implore you to please don’t forget the meaning of Memorial Day.
You don’t have to visit a national cemetery like some will choose. It’s OK to be “happy” for the liberty our country enjoys.
But at the very least, reflect on the lives of the men and women in uniform who made the ultimate sacrifice like the great heroes of World War II.
It is because of them and those who have fallen in recent years that we enjoy our freedom.
Remember and honor our fallen.