By CHAD STORLIE
US Army, Retired
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance. Memorial Day is a day of appreciation for sacrifice. Memorial Day is a day of profound thanks. To truly feel and appreciate the sacrifice of Memorial Day, we need to make the remembrance of Memorial Day personal. Too often, Memorial Day can be a day of distant appreciation and remembrance because we do not make the feelings of loss, the feelings of sacrifice, and the feelings of appreciation personal.
Here are a few suggestions for connecting to Memorial Day in a personal way.
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 sun rise over 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 makes us personalize the fallen.
Find a National or State Cemetery close to you: http://www.cem.va.gov/cems/listcem.asp.
Tell others your own memories of the fallen on Memorial Day.
I lost several friends in Iraq and through my years of military service. However, what I spend time telling people is 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 literally 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 don’t want how they died to be remembered. I want their smiles, their funny stories, and the lessons and leadership that they enacted daily to me the memories for others.
Donations, not charity, for the 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 family’s 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.
Chad Storlie is a retired US Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel with 20-plus years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He is an adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University in Omaha, NE.