Memorial Day: More Than White Pumps

What does Memorial Day mean to you?

Parades? BBQ’s with hotdogs, hamburgers, cole-slaw, and potato salad? Maybe macaroni salad, fruit salad, 3-bean salad, jello-salad, or marshmallow surprise salad?

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I think you get my point. A lot of funky salad gets eaten on Memorial Day.

For me, Memorial Day means I can finally show off my white pumps without people giving me that look of disapproval because “Honey, it’s too early to wear white”.

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Ok… I don’t really wear high heels and I don’t even wear white pants. So, if you take fashion out of the picture, Memorial Day mostly meant that I could sleep late on a Monday.

Maybe if I had grown up in a military family, I would have paid more attention to what Memorial Day really means. The only relative I knew who served during a war (until recently) was my uncle Denny. He was a radio broadcaster in Vietnam — the Robin Williams of the family.

Memorial Day would basically pass without a lot of thought about it.

Until recently…

This year, for Memorial Day weekend I was invited to speak at a retreat on Smith Mountain Lake for wounded veterans organized by Oliver North’s Freedom Alliance. What an honor. I got to spend 3 days and 3 nights with a handful of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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If you look at these veterans (see photo above) for the most part you’d have no idea that they were injured, because the majority of their wounds are internal like Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I met men like Dan Frawley, who did three tours of duty in Iraq. He was directly hit four times by improvised explosive devices or IED’s Can you imagine how much your brain would hurt after that?

Our days were spent doing activities planned to encourage camaraderie. We caught striped bass, slung arrows and shot hand guns. However, for me, the most important and meaningful time was after dinner, when we’d pull chairs together and talk for hours.

I heard first hand what it’s like being a soldier.

Imagine, having all of your teeth broken from the shock waves of a mortar shell, sleeping in a hole for weeks on end, or what it feels like to be a Corpsman with the ethical dilemma of having to save the life of an enemy soldier who has just shot one of your best friends. Can you even imagine losing your best buddies to an IED?

It takes a lot of courage to be a soldier, during battle and long after the war is over — This is what I’ll always remember when I think about Memorial Day.

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