Military Life

To Honor and Remember – Memorial Day

I always think of Nick.

There are so many, too, too many, but I always think of Nick.

He stood in my husband’s place and he didn’t come home. There are so many times my thoughts turn to him – especially being stationed at Fort Bragg. He loved to “fly” – to jump, that is, – but really to fly.

He was fearless, joy-filled, daring.

When you saw him you would never expect it. I learned so much about the greatness of his life in the weeks after his death.

Every year, someone, somewhere, will ask me to thank my husband for his service, to thank me for our service. I’ve come to realize, while uncomfortable, there is a way to respond in grace.

There is such a disconnect between the civilian world and my world, my reality, the reality of folded flags, of white tombstones, of children kissing memorial photos of their daddies, of a standing rifle, an empty helmet, and lonely boots …
I will take a connection.

I will take the effort and the intention and I will then quietly thank them and ask them to think of the ones the living carry – that they will never not carry – the ones who did not return.

The families that mourn them.

They all stood up and took the same oath. They all joined this life with the unthinkable reality that they may leave this earth before any of us are ready.

So many that have stood beside them, that have stood beside my C, that I have seen the smiles of and heard the laughter of, leave us.

A flag-draped coffin affects us in a way that is without words. Our bodies … the feeling that ripples from the head to the heart to the feet … it will always take my breath away. I’ve stood as I watched my husband take a knee and present a flag.

There is a brokenness on this day – on so many, many days in this life – that cannot be told. There is deepest sorrow, profound gratitude.

It’s the sound of TAPS, the unanswered roll call, the folded flag between gloved hands.

And still, we utter the words “See you soon”, we learn to stand with silent tears, we bow our heads, we cover our hearts, we pray, we sit in silence, we remember, and we honor.

And that is when I think of Nick – when it comes to honoring the lives they lived and gave. He lived his short life with all that is life. He laughed, he jumped, he flew. With his short stature and his BCGs he rode his motorcycle to and from work, and the day he died he had chosen to not leave his men.

The phone call for his death came on our first wedding anniversary. Every year when we celebrate our life together, we also celebrate Nick and the life he afforded to us and our children.

On this day, we mourn the fallen and those they left behind but we also celebrate that such men and women lived. When Nick died, his beautiful family held a celebration of his life – his full and fearless life. They gathered around and shared their stories, shared their food, and shared drinks in his name. Just as he would have wanted.

That is what this day holds for me. A celebration of their life, deepest gratitude for the profound sacrifice, and a promise that we will say their names, tell their stories. We will hold onto their families. We will honor and remember and live for them.

Rest in peace.

With deepest gratitudeand profound sorrow.

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