How I honor the fallen this special Memorial Day
This Memorial Day is much different than previous ones. First — the world is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. This pandemic is causing chaos around the globe with no clear end in sight. More importantly, my father passed away this month. He was a mighty warrior many years ago. Today is the first Memorial Day without him. I now know what it is like to be missing someone special on Memorial Day. Today, we have an empty chair at our family table, like millions of other Americans on this holiday. That thought alone makes me sad and takes me back to a special visit I made to a distant battlefield that took the lives of so many great Americans. Normandy.
Memorial Day is for the fallen
I stood at the edge of the cliff and looked down. Wow. How in the world did anyone climb these cliffs? They are so steep — straight down. Add the fact that the US Army Rangers were being shot at while scaling Pointe du Hoc and suddenly you understand how remarkable those men were. Forget superheroes — Rudders Rangers were the real deal. America’s finest men. The kind we should honor on Memorial Day.
Visiting the Normandy D-Day beaches is eye-opening
I have been to the Normandy D-Day beaches twice. The first time I was stationed in Germany back in the 1990s. The second time was a few years ago while vacationing in France. Both visits were remarkable. The area is beautiful, the local people are friendly, and the food is excellent. But, the best thing about this remote region of France is its history. The WWII sites are all well done. The US cemeteries are immaculate and tell the story of what happened here over 75 years ago. It is a story we should never forget.
History has taught us over and over again that freedom is not free. When push comes to shove, the ultimate protectors of freedom and liberty are the brave men and women in our armed forces. Throughout our history, they’ve answered the call in bravery and sacrifice.
Tim Pawlenty, American Politician
Today is Memorial Day
It is an important American holiday, and I want to make sure I 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. Below is three ways I honor the fallen.
1. 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 based on books written by Cornelius Ryan.
2. Witness where they fell
I like to visit the battlefields. The best way to get a sense of what our fallen experienced is to witness where they fought. Walk the battlefield, learn their stories, and ponder what happened. My sons and I have 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. It is easy to forget the sacrifice that so many made that day.
3. Honor their sacrifice
This one can be challenging, so I will 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 Americans, we have more opportunities 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. That is what I am trying to do. I hope you do likewise.
Remember to “earn this”
In the movie Saving Private Ryan (another great war movie), there is a powerful scene at the end. Tom Hank’s 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. On Memorial Day I do the same thing. I think about the fallen — the sacrifice they made so that I am free. Next, I think about my life and if I am making the most with what I have been given. Some days I am, but most days I am not.
What about you? How are you spending Memorial Day?
How are you honoring the fallen this year? Have you seen the final scene in Saving Private Ryan? If not, 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!
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