Parades are okay. Statues are nice. Flying a flag is good. Dedicating a monument, or a park bench, or a building, is thoughtful. There are so many ways we can honor the service and sacrifice of those who give their lives for our country – but none of those matter unless we put meaningful action behind those thoughtful or symbolic gestures.
Unless we do these two things, we fall short of truly honoring the ones who sacrificed their own lives for us:
- We must live our lives with gratitude and intensity, celebrating each day, loving the people in our lives, reaching our full potential, and helping others do the same.
- We must never allow the core values of American freedom and patriotism to be destroyed.
That, for me, is what it all boils down to. That is what my husband gave his life in service of. That is why my four sons don’t remember what it’s like to yell “Daddy’s home!” They never learned how to build the things he would have taught them how to build. They lost out on so many moments and experiences of having a dad, because their dad died in Iraq when my sons were just 6,5,3, and 1 year old.
“Why” is the question so many of us ask when we lose someone tragically. “Why him? Why us?”
It’s normal to feel like that. In our case, this was compounded by the circumstances of my husband’s death. He and the commanding officer were murdered by the supply sergeant, who was about to be chaptered out for his unlawful, unethical and underperforming actions. That turned into a 3 ½ year nightmare of a court martial process, in which my husband’s killer walked away a free man. It was so complex and shocking I wrote my first book, Front Toward Enemy, to share the full story and lessons learned.
I kissed my husband good morning, and goodbye, for the last time on Memorial Day Weekend, in 2005. He deployed on Memorial Day, and died 10 days later.
The futility and senselessness of my husband’s murder – why did he have to go all the way to Iraq just to be killed by an American soldier – was for a while mitigated by the sense that what he served for, what he believed was worth dying for, still stood and still mattered in America.
But slowly at first, and then with a speed and ferocity that grows every day, that comfort has been stolen from me.
First they protested the flag -the flag that draped my husband’s coffin, and which I see in my home every day. The anthem that my boys used to call “Daddy’s song” was labeled “racist”and “oppressive” and “offensive.”
Men and women who hold the line on our home front, in our own communities, were assassinated by the citizens they serve and protect, as a justification for the crimes and offenses committed by those who betray that oath.
Cities started to burn.
Divisiveness was stoked.
A president who cared less about etiquette than he did about defending Americans and our core values from those who seek to dismantle the very things this country stands for, was vilified and demonized by the media, the politicians he stood up to, the powerful corporations he refused to cower to, and the Americans who bought into the belief that nasty tweets are worse than the destruction of the sanctity of our cities and hometowns.
Now we have a president and a vice president that half this country believe should not be in office for various reasons. We have a Speaker of the House and a Senate Majority Leader who display disgusting morals and double standards while openly denouncing Americans who oppose them.
We have a one-party America, ruled by people who are abusing their power, lying to the people they are supposed to be representing, and whittling away our freedoms, one mandate at a time.
I am watching new proposals, gun laws and election laws wend through their hands, that will effectively change the landscape of America and the rights of Americans for years, if not decades or centuries. I am watching racism and violence being deployed in the name of ending racism and violence. I am watching non-citizens being offered more respect and support from our government than American citizens are shown in our own country, and those who point out the absurdity and unsustainability of this practice being shunned or silenced.
I am watching things happen in the country I love, that I lost so much of what I love for, that break my heart. Things that make me feel helpless, and angry, and hopeless.
That is why I decided to look around and find ways I can do my part, to restore American values, and pride, and freedoms to its citizens.
I am not a politician. I am not in the military. I am not a celebrity, or a mega-millionaire.
I am “just” an American Citizen, like you, who is tired of being told I am the problem. I am tired of hoping the real problem- a federal government with far too much power and hubris, an education system being turned into propaganda presented as facts, a media owned by the Far Left, and a country in the grips of massive emotional manipulation- will magically be cured.
For me, this is a deeply personal dilemma, and I cannot simply sit back and accept it as the “new normal.”
I have tried to find ways for my own life to be an extension of my husband’s service, in my own way, and I am proud of the work I do.
We don’t have to wear a uniform to serve our country and each other. I can give endless examples of people who inspire me by the way they give of themselves to do so. That is the beauty of this great big melting pot we live in: we are all free to tap into our gifts and our grit, to build meaningful lives and legacies.
Those freedoms are in jeopardy for half of America right now. The half of America that disagrees with the vision of the Far Left is being shunned, threatened, censored, silenced, and litigated with relentless and targeted precision.
The America I believe in, the patriotism I stand for, is not intended to shine only on those who agree with each other. The Americans I respect understand that building one segment of society up does not require sacrificing others. They know it’s possible to stand against racism and police brutality, while supporting those who honorably serve. They believe in hand ups instead of handouts, and often reach their own hands out to help others. They believe in America’s core values and realize that the stronger our own country and our own citizens are, the more good we can do in the rest of the world – but we must put America first in order to do so.
That is the version of America I believe in, and my husband died for, and which I am working to restore. This is the greatest way I can honor my husband and all those who give so much, for all of us.
How will you honor the fallen this Memorial Day?
What are you doing to ensure their sacrifice is not in vain?