If you would ask me on any given day what Memorial Day means to me, I'd be guilty in responding with a hoop and a hollar that it is the unofficial start to summer and a day off of work if we go to school past the holiday. I'm not proud of that, so please don't throw things at me. I'll try to justify it by saying that once I finally get to the weekend, I find time to reflect on what the day really means to me and so many others across our country.
I know there are people who make it very clear that Memorial Day and Veteran's Day are different holidays. One is for remembering those we've lost. One is for remembering those who have fought. And while I can completely understand the sentiment, and grieve with those who have lost loved ones that have gone to war, I would be doing an injustice to those who came home or those who are still fighting if I didn't acknowledge their sacrifices as well. However, for today's sake, I want to focus on those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
I've known many soldiers throughout the years. Some are friends. Some are family. Some are family of my friends, and so forth. One particular man stands out in my mind on this day because he is the only one that I know personally that has paid the ultimate sacrifice. BJay Leusink and I didn't "go way back". We didn't hang out on Friday nights. We weren't part of the same crowd. But we went to school together. He wrestled with my brother. He was a good friend to many and from what I remember, very well respected.
So when I got the phone call from my mom one day in May, seven years ago, that a former classmate had been killed in the line of duty, my heart sunk. It sunk for his new wife, his mama and his dad whom I imagined falling to their knees as they saw uniformed officers walk to their doorsteps with heavy hearts to deliver news that their loved one wouldn't be coming home. It broke my heart. It still breaks my heart to this day.
At his funeral, I was amazed at the number of people who came to pay their respects. It was so large that it couldn't even be held at a church, but instead in the high school gym where BJay spent so many hours of his life. I listened to family and friends speak of his life- not who he was as a soldier, but who he was as a person. They spoke about their favorite memories of him.
You see, these soldiers give up those normal, day to day happenings that we so often take for granted. While we are spending our moments watching our kids ride their bikes, going out for supper or to movies, hitting the gym or having a fire in our backyard, these men and women are fighting and putting their lives on the line so that we can do these things. We don't have to feel afraid the way so many men, women and children do in other countries. And we have these soldiers to thank for that.
No matter what feelings you have about the politics of having our men and women in other countries, set them aside today. Let's focus on paying tribute to those who don't have to risk their lives, but do. Don't take for granted the freedoms you have. Hug a soldier today. Find a family whose separated from their mom or dad, husband or wife and tell them how much you appreciate the sacrifices they make as well. Send a care package to soldiers overseas. Whatever you do, don't take for granted what you have and why you have it. Don't ever forget the ones who laid down their lives to defend yours. Enjoy your barbeques and parades, but please, please raise your glass to remember those who've sacrificed for us. Happy Memorial Day!