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Before the barbeque is fired up, before the beer and soda is iced down, before the wine corks are pulled… I want to take a brief moment and share my thoughts on Memorial Day.  

I am an American.  I am lucky.  God graced me with this privilege, but that freedom is sustained by the men and women in the US Army, US Navy, US Air Force and the US Marine Corps.  In no small measure, I also recognize the Clandestine operators of the CIA, DIA and other agencies – as well as Intelligence analysts and translators – not only from the US but also from our Allies — also ensure the tenuous strings of liberty are seldom cut by the Fates. 

I am grateful to all those who preserve and protect America.  We live in a place where political discourse is a daily occurrence.  I am grateful for the snark and arrogance of others that usually drives me batty.   Because if I were not an American, and was instead from the Congo or Soviet era Russia, or modern Venezuela… my strong beliefs could lead to peril, and real torture.

The tremendous sacrifice or the men and women who love our nation enough to give their lives for it – well, thank you is but a down payment.  My Grandfather (my Gramps, rest his beautiful soul) served in the US Navy.  My father, the greatest dad in the world (I promise this is true) served in the Army.  Bar none, their love and fortitude and stoic character has insipred me for the totality of my life.  There is nothing more amazing than being the daughter of a man who loves our great country enough to serve.  You learn things about patience, and truth, and sticking together in the toughest of times.  No matter what.  You learn how to perservere – even when others would seek to tear you down, or belittle you.  You see strength and love with great clarity.  Seldom is it flashy, but it is as reliable as the sun rising in the East.

I have been lucky enough to serve myself.  That brief experience brought to me many friends, who went on to serve many many years beyond me.  Great people who taught me how to laugh.  Tough guys who cry when their wives share the news that together, they will bring a new life into the world. Men who bear the unbearable.  Hundred-plus degree heat in sandstorms.  Men who remain steady when the tracer fire grazes their skin, their vehicles.  Men who fight because it is their calling.  Men who read through thousands of intel reports, analyze and collate, and make decisions that protect lives.  The lives of Americans and her Allies.  And, innocent civilians and children that are borne into a place where life is not so sacred as it is here.

I married a man who gave his life for this nation.  He was a complicated and good man.  Our daughter is a testament to love and grace, and for the million kindnesses of his friends – our friends – and my father, and my mother – these people sustained my daughter and I through the last eleven Memorial Days.  The first one came and went painfully.  By the next year, we had buried him in Arlington National Cemetery alongside his friends and other American heroes.  I have seen quite a few folks talking about the “Flags In” at Arlington today.  It reminded me when I was one of the folks who places those flags with the guys from the Old Guard.

I have also been a guest at the Memorial Day service at the amphitheater adjacent to the Tomb of the Unknowns.  The people at Arlington National Cemetery, like C (won’t use her whole name) at the Chaplain’s office, and the great folks in Superintendent Metzler’s office are great stewards of our nation’s most hallowed ground.  The Arlington Ladies – you are Angels. 

All around us, there are folks who think they know something about military life.  They watch Army Wives and think they get it.  It’s an interesting take on things but life inside the military bubble is never quite so simple.  No one plays cool music every time a couple fights just hours before he leaves on a deployment to combat.  Sending around moving videos via email is great, but remember to say “how are you doing?” when there are not reminders about Memorial Day, or Veterans Day on Fox News.   Remember to say thanks to troops whenever you see them.  Get involved by sending care packages. Or donating air miles.  Or phone cards to Vets stuck at Walter Reed and Bethesda, healing and learning to triumph over combat injuries.  Go to a burn center and sit with a Vet, see him as the man that he truly is – a warrior, a lover, a fellow American.

Memorial Day should include a moment of silence, where we find Grace and gratitude for the men and women who give their lives for ours. 

For the men who have seen battle – and have an Alive Day, I believe Memorial Day is for you as well.  You know God, or luck, or both, granted you a second chance.   You have seen horrors and been frightened to the quick, but you are here now.  And we are a greater nation because of you.  So are our Allies. 

America is free.  I believe in our inherent strength as a nation.  Let us all give thanks to those who fight.  Ask peace be granted to the Fallen.  Pray for Grace to fill the hearts of those that love them. 

As for my story, thank you to the folks who sent Memorial Day greetings.  And yes, I have been granted my own second chance… so in our family’s windows, look for a Gold Star to remember the one who gave me a beautiful daughter, and a Blue Star for the one who brings the sweetest Grace and most welcome thing of all… laughter.

God Bless America, all who serve or have served, our Fallen and their families.

—Lizzy