What is Memorial Day REALLY About?

I am a Marine Widow and a Navy wife and I have a confession to make. 

I grew up in a small New England town.  There were Memorial Day parades and celebrations but other than my Great Uncles, a distant Cousin and my Paternal Grandfather who was gone when I was young, Not many of my family were in the service.  I don't think I understood the true meaning of Memorial Day until I moved to California after 2001. 
Living in Southern California you are surrounded by a large number of military bases and activities and I began to understand the true reverence of this day. 
Then in 2005 I married a Marine and it was so apparent the concepts I had missed out on.  No one is at fault for this; life just changes when you marry or are related to the Military or have a Veteran in your life. We paid our respects on this day and often hung out with friends.


Then came 2012....
My husband was killed by an IED while serving overseas.  My world was shattered.  I was overcome with grief, confusion and anger. 
Then a month later it was Memorial Day.  I was invited to the local Veterans Cemetery (where he is now buried). I went and was honored to have the speaking Generals wife sit and hold my hand.  I was however simply confused, overwhelmed and exhausted.  There were so many people and while I was so appreciative of their attendance at this event I found myself wondering why I didn't feel this military support from the public while my husband was alive.  I went home knowing I very obviously had some things to work through.


Enter 2014.  People started posting reminders of what this day off from work was actually about.  I shared a few hoping to help educate people.  However as people share their photos of beach days and barbecues I just found myself angry and logged out.  My closest friend who was a Veteran and Wounded Warrior kept my feelings in check and saved me from imploding.   He was always good at that and his influence changed my life.


Enter 2015.  I decided very purposely to breathe.  This was the worst year of all.  Now it was not just my husband.  The close friend I spoke of above was also in heaven due to complications from his injuries received in war.  I was beyond lost. I was angry and I needed this day to be over so the pain would stop. I posted reminders about what the day was about and asked my friends to have a moment of silence for the fallen.  Then I cried like I had not in some time. 


Enter 2016.  Life is so very different. J and D are both gone and my heart will always have a hole where they should be.  I have however remarried. I was lucky enough to meet an amazing man who is Military himself and he supports me in my work with the EOD Warrior Foundation and visits the cemetery with me to visit J.  I know I am blessed by this.  The Internet reminders of what the day is for have started and I have shared a few.  But this year I find myself truly wanting to educate the masses on Memorial Day.  Yes you can get a great price on a grill and have a day off from work and hit the beach but there are men and women who sacrificed all to give you this right.


I look back to the greatest generation.  They fought with honor, lost more service members than any other war and came home heroes.  These men and women still take part in all service remembrance activities along side their families.
Why are we not standing with them in mass? Many do but many do not.  How do we teach our generation and our children how important this day is? 

It is simple.  Stand up and speak. Tell your family, friends and children why they have this day off and take a moment of silence for all those that gave you the right to have a celebration free of fear.


In 2012 a close friend from high school posted a photo of her very young daughter painting an American flag that had our names on it.  She discussed how she is too young to understand now. But as she grows up she will be taught what Memorial Day means.  I love that picture and my friend.  It gives me hope.  Hope that we can raise the next great generation that serves with pride and gives reverence to those who serve and fall.


This Memorial Day I will be home in reverence.  The cemetery is just too crowded for me.  I will remember.  I will tell stories and I will honestly cry. 
Can I ask this?   Have your party, beach day or barbecue but could you take 5 minutes to talk about what Memorial Day means.  Teach your children, educate other family members or friends because that is all the families of the fallen desire.  To have their loved ones remembered on the day that was meant for them.

 

                                                In Remembrance on Memorial Day.

                                               ~~Heather Fankhauser Evans 

 

Below I share the video of Joseph’s Final Homecoming to Dover AFB.  While this was the hardest day I have ever endured, I can also stand back now and look at the Tradition and Reverence in the way we treat our Fallen Service Members.  This video was from a day of sadness that I now see also contains beauty and respect. 

 

                                                      Joseph's Final Homecoming

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