memorial dayEach annual holiday causes us to pause for a moment and recognize that another year has passed.  We’re all quite used to the big celebration of this idea, New Years, but in truth any annual event, each ordinary day in fact is a reminder that it’s been a year since that calendar date came around.  It’s not practical or necessary to make a big deal about everything but it is essential to celebrate the important ones, on both a personal level such as when we mark an anniversary or birthday, and as part of a larger community such as on religious and civic holidays.

As I sat down to write this week’s column I went back to what I wrote last year. Ostensibly I did so because I did not want to repeat myself. I didn’t want to write the same thing. But as I read what I wrote last year, I couldn’t help but think, “What else can I say?” And then I thought, “And why shouldn’t I say the same thing?” Here’s some of what I wrote last year:

I want to thank all the men and women serving in the military currently as well as those who are veterans: your service, hard work and sacrifice is noted and appreciated so very much. In communities across the U.S. our veterans and military families will be honored with ceremonies and parades, and celebrated with BBQs and picnics. This is as it should be.

But there are other ways to recognize and say thank you: the families of those currently serving overseas often need help, with yard work and other chores as well as financial assistance; wounded warriors need the right support and medical services to return to full, productive lives; and all veterans need gainful employment. We can all play a part in making these things happen.

That’s when I realized I didn’t have to say anything else. Memorial Day is a national day of remembrance not because it brings something new and different to us each year but precisely the opposite: it is a day when we must recognize that no matter what era or what war, it is always the same. The horror of war and the tremendous sacrifices that our military members and their families make to keep us all safe and sound never change. 

The only thing to add to what I said last year is to recognize and remind us all of what’s special about Memorial Day; the difference between it and Veteran’s Day.  Memorial Day is specifically to remember those that have died serving in our military. Veteran’s Day is when we honor all who serve or have served. Obviously this is splitting hairs in one sense and I’m sure there is no one who begrudges paying tribute to everyone this weekend. But I do think it is important to recognize those that have made the ultimate sacrifice and to especially comfort and respect the loved ones that are left behind with a hole in their lives forever. All those who serve are willing to take on this special burden and as a nation we are indebted to them in ways that are hard to accurately describe. Fortunately not all of them are called to this sacrifice.

As you enjoy this weekend with your family and loved ones, and as you pay tribute in one way or another, keep a special thought for those who have lost a father or mother, a son or daughter, a sister or brother.  Keep in mind those who never met their grandfather or their uncle. Pray for all our military personnel serving us here at home and around the world. Pray that they’ll come home safely but pray especially for those who are gone, those who won’t be home. 

I encourage everyone to find a practical way to honor them as well, whether through a donation of time or money, on a large or small scale. Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Jerry Brenholz
President and CEO
ATR International

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