How I choose to honor the fallen?

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Memorial in the American Cemetery above Omaha Beach, Normandy, France.

Today is Memorial Day.

It is an important American holiday, and I want to make sure we honor the fallen properly. This holiday has become confusing for some Americans.

Nowadays, many treat Memorial the same as Veteran’s Day. They are two distinct holidays with different purposes.

Memorial Day is the day we honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives for our great country. Veteran’s Day, on the other hand, is the day we honor those who have served in our military.

Given that Memorial Day is when we are supposed to honor the fallen, the natural questions is how should we do that.

Here is how I choose to honor the fallen.

Remember their heroic deeds

All Americans should pause this weekend and think about those who died for our freedom. There are several ways to do this — read a book about military history, visit a military monument, or watch a military history movie.

Over the years I have done all three of these activities many times.

My favorite book about military history is Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides. The movie about this unbelievable US Army Ranger raid is also great.

My favorite military monument is at the top of Pointe Du Hoc where the US Army Rangers scaled the cliffs on D-Day.

My favorite military history movie is a tie between The Longest Day or A Bridge Too Far. Both are great and based on books written by Cornelius Ryan.

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This plaque is part of the Point du Hoc monument in Normandy France.

Witness where they fell

Visit the battlefields where they fought. The best way to get a sense of what our fallen experienced is to visit where they fought.

Walk the battlefield, learn their stories, and ponder what happened.

Last summer, we visited a few of the most historic battlefields and cemeteries in the world. We saw firsthand what our troops faced on D-Day, visited several museums, and paid our respects at the cemetery.

I have been there before but it was still a moving experience. It is easy to forget the sacrifice that so many made that day. I am really glad you were able to see this important piece of our history.

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Riley at Point du Hoc monument. Holy ground for Army Rangers.

Honor their sacrifice

This one can be challenging, so I would be plain. In my opinion, the best way to honor the sacrifice of the fallen is to live a life worth living.

Make the most of what you have been given.

As an American, you have more opportunity than most people in this world.

Our freedom was paid for by others.

Don’t squander their sacrifice.

Get out there and make something of yourself.

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Riley at the American cemetery above Omaha Beach in Normandy France.

In the movie Saving Private Ryan (another great war movie), there is a powerful scene at the end.

Tom Hanks character Captain John Miller is severely wounded. He tells Private Ryan played by Matt Damon to “earn this”, and then he dies.

The message is the same as what I am saying here.

In the next scene, Private Ryan is in the cemetery at Normandy, and remembers those words, and thinks about his life.

Now that you have been to the cemetery in Normandy this scene will make even more sense to you. Watch the clip below.

I actually cry every time I watch it. It makes me feel thankful for the sacrifice of those who paid the ultimate price — which is what Memorial Day is all about. RLTW!

Related

I write a blog for my sons called Doug Keating Letter to Sons. I am sharing content from my blog here. I hope you enjoyed it. All feedback is welcome. Thanks for reading it.

Originally published at www.lettertosons.com on May 28, 2018.

Leader and learner. Father of two young men. Novice blogger, www.lettertosons.com, Founder of All The Way Leadership! http://www.allthewayleadership.com/

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