If you’re watching this today, perhaps you’re taking a break from a family barbeque, or maybe you’ve just returned from shopping for some much needed item that this weekend’s sales have allowed you to purchase. I hope the extra time with your loved ones is rewarding, and the long weekend a satisfying break from the challenges of work, or school, or parenting. I’ll be hoping for the same for myself and my loved ones.
But I humbly ask you to consider the following. Fourteen years ago, I spent Memorial Day looking for I.E.D.s in AND around the city of Mosul, Iraq. I had only been in country for a couple of months, and the brave men and women of the 101st Airborne Division had worked and fought and bled throughout the previous year to clear the way for what we all hoped would be a relatively peaceful transfer of power.
My unit had not yet suffered its first casualty, and as summer began the purple fingers of Iraqi citizens casting their votes felt like a cause worth facing that danger for. But soon enough, something shifted. Attacks increased in both intensity and frequency over the summer, and by the time autumn came around several members of my company had been wounded, some seriously, and some terrifyingly so, especially when you knew you had to go back outside the wire again the next day. I’ll admit, I was scared pretty much all of the time, but I did my job to the best of my ability, and I still believed that we might all make it home together.
But that’s not how war goes. Close to Christmas, as 2004 was coming to a close, our unit lost two young men, Sergeants Nicholas Mason and David Ruhren. They were both 20 years old. I grieved for them and their families then, and I grieve for them today. And I would ask you to consider the fact that on so many of the days between that one and this one, there have been others to grieve for. Less than a month ago, a young man from Colorado was killed in Afghanistan. When I came home from Iraq in 2005, he was 9 years old.
So today, I’d ask you to take a moment to ask yourself, “How many more names might be added to the long list of those we are asked to remember next year?” And to also remember the thousands of veterans, actively serving men and women, and grieving families of their fallen brothers and sisters, for whom Memorial Day doesn’t just fall on the last Monday in May, but on every single day of the rest of their lives.