By: Bruce Eisenhauer
Every year on Memorial Day, I reflect on those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Those who put the needs of their country ahead of their own. Those who defended the ideals of freedom and democracy while protecting their brothers and sisters in arms. They knew death was a very real possibility and still went forward.
I consider myself a patriot – someone who loves his country and realizes freedom is not free. I’ve enjoyed the comradery of athletics and the comradery of serving in the military. There are similarities in the bonding and family-like atmosphere that they both can foster.
We often hear athletes talk about battles, wars and laying it all on the line. While I understand the metaphors, I wonder if they have ever pondered the difference. There are obviously big differences between being willing to best effort for your teammates and the willingness to lay down your life in defense of your fellow soldiers and your country.
Pause and Reflect
It’s easy to take for granted our freedoms and blessings that came from those who sacrificed on our behalf. It’s like an“out-of-sight, out-of-mind” scenario. We have reaped the rewards of those who sacrificed all for us to have that right but do not understand how those freedoms are paid for.
On Memorial Day, we can gather with family and friends and be freshly grateful for those who sacrificed so we can gather in safety and freedom.
I’m always amazed that so many of us don’t understand the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Veterans Day is the day we honor and thank those who have served and those who are currently serving. On Memorial Day we honor those who have given their lives in the service of our country.
Men and Women who Made a Choice
In general, the military is a microcosm of most other professions – everything is represented there. You’ll find amazing people and not-so-amazing people; some extremely bright people and some not so bright. You will find great leaders and not-so-great leaders. Really, just like any other profession, even our work as wealth advisors.
The major difference, of course, is those who serve in the military made a conscious decision to do whatever it takes to defend our country and our freedoms.
I sometimes hear people say, “They chose to be in the military, and they knew what they were getting into.” While true in principle, they do not control when, where and how they are assigned or how many times they may be in a volatile situation.
In the last few years, I’ve attended several military graduations for family members. I learned that over 80 percent of those who serve are from legacy families in which a direct family member also served. The military culture is honored in those homes, and the sacrifices are remembered – in many cases personally. Brave warrior families continuing to produce warriors.
Honoring the Story
How do we honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice? I think it starts with education, reading and watching the stories of some of those heroes who have sacrificed all. Over Memorial Day weekend, I watched The Tillman Story, on the life Pat Tillman who was in the NFL and left his career to enlist in the United States Army after September 11th.
The Military Times asked several lawmakers and administrators who served who they will be remembering this Memorial Day. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., who served with the Army in Afghanistan, shared:
When I hear the slow hum of Taps and the crack of the 21-gun salute this Memorial Day, I will think of many friends — warrior brothers like Army Sgt. 1st Class Lance Vogeler, who was killed Oct. 1, 2010, just a few weeks after he worked to save my life when I was injured. Lance was killed on his 12th deployment. He left behind his wife and three children whom he loved more than anything in this world and spoke about all the time.
These heroes are our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, dads, moms, and friends. It’s important for us to teach our kids and grandkids about the sacrifices made for our freedom. Remembering their legacy in our Memorial Day reflections is one of the greatest honors we can give.
Proud to Be
My wife and I come from a long line of those who have served the United States military. Like many other military families, I am proud of that legacy and those who forged it. There are familiar faces in my Memorial Day reflection.
I have a feeling many people love what our country has to offer but don’t necessarily love our country anymore. Reflecting on those who have selflessly served and continue to do so can help us regain the pride and love of country that made this the best nation on earth.