I'll try not to come across flippant or trite with how I personally feel about Memorial Day because after Easter and Christmas, it is the next most reverent day for me.
Several years ago when my teenager was still in that inquisitive phase, she was in my room looking at a shadow box that had been given to me with things from my time in the Marine Corps. My dog tags, first set of gold bars, jump wings and other badges along with the few ribbons and two medals I had earned. There was also a poster next to the box that displayed all of the United States Services medals and ribbons. She would look at a ribbon or medal then go to the poster and find it. I was folding clothes and watching, and she would turn and ask me how to pronounce words like expeditionary or exemplary always curious to how the words were defined in terms she could understand.
She studied for the better part of half an hour when the inevitable question was presented. The medals and ribbons on this particular poster are arranged by an order of importance or distinction with the Medal of Honor for each branch at the top. Being a very perceptive little girl, she noticed my personal decorations didn't make it to the top three lines of the poster.
Did you ever fight in a war daddy?
The concept of war and killing another human being over reasons of principles and politics is a little hard to grasp for a 7 year old. As delicate as possible, I explained that our country was at peace for the most part during my service with the exception of a few short military operation. She quickly connected a few dots.
Did people shoot at you? Did you shoot at other people? Do you know anybody who died in battle?
Her rapid fire delivery made it hard to keep up the gentle pace of explanation and avoidance of certain answers , so
I took a deep breath and told her that people in the military serve in order to keep her and everyone else in our country safe. If needed, they are ready to give their life in a fight to keep us safe... many have already and many would in years to come.
As a tear formed in my eye thinking about a few friends I had lost in service to their country, I saw tears also welling in her eyes and looked away as not to embarrass her. I put my arm around her and explained the extraordinary circumstances necessary for the medals on the top row, and that I served with SGTMAJ Allan Kellogg in Hawaii who was one of the few people alive that wore that medal.
I took the opportunity to explain why it's important to show respect to the American flag and what the flag represents. She reminded me she had been witness that past winter when I left my broadcasting table during a basketball pre-game following the National Anthem, walked to the opposite side of the gym and addressed a certain young man who had talked on his cell phone during the entire song...while sitting down. She now finally understood the applause from the people in the immediate section when I was finished saying what I had to say. The lesson was taking root, and I explained that during that time the National Anthem is being played and I'm looking at our nation's flag...I always remember the price that has been paid so that I can do the things I do...in freedom.
Today, I close with heartfelt praise and gratitude first to God for giving me the opportunity to teach these lessons to my children. May we never forget those who have died on our behalf...starting with Jesus. I also thank Him for those who didn't get that same opportunity because their service to others was far greater than their service to self.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.