For many veterans like me, Memorial Day is a holiday that elicits mixed emotions.

Yes, we love spending time on the beach or at barbecues with our families celebrating the kick-off of summer.

But amid the sounds of laughter and smiles of loved ones lurks the memory of friends lost and brothers and sisters in arms taken too soon in the line of duty.

Memorial Day is more than the start of everyone’s favorite season. It is a somber day of remembrance on which we honor those Americans who gave the last full measure of devotion.

On this day we often think of images — some of which we have seen firsthand — that became all too familiar over the last two decades of war: an immaculately dressed Casualty Notification Officer ascending a set of household stairs ready to break devastating news to loved ones; a flag-covered casket descending an aircraft ramp flanked by an honor guard; a miniature flag fluttering before a white headstone bearing a cross or Star of David.

It is right and proper that we take time to reflect on these this weekend.

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But there are other things I encourage us to keep in mind amidst our Memorial Day revelries: the mother and father spending a holiday mourning because they had to bury a son or daughter; the veteran living on the street not celebrating, still unable to make sense of the profound loss he or she experienced; those still in uniform deployed in harm’s way, standing a vigilant post or watch.  

Yes, Memorial Day is a holiday, but it is not celebrated the same by everyone.

This weekend, I am asking Americans to extend a little grace to those they know it might mean something different. Say thank you, check in, and let them know you are thinking of them. 

Sometimes the little things make all the difference. This Memorial Day, think of and do the little things.

Perhaps most importantly, remember that freedom, liberty, and the things we collectively cherish as a nation are never safe unless they are assertively and continuously defended.

The blessings of America — far less consciously admired or talked about than they once were — exist only because our best and bravest made the supreme sacrifice upon the altar of service.

We are heirs of their legacy. We have a responsibility to keep alive what they died believing in. We have a duty to take up their mantle of service in whatever ways we can.

Celebrate this weekend. Enjoy the start of summer.

But remember who and what Memorial Day is about. Do the small things for those to whom they will mean the world. Reflect on how you can be inspired by those whom this holiday honors.

David Galluch is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, former Naval Special Operations Officer, and Chairman of Keystone Forward, a nonprofit advocacy group for transparency, good government and free market solutions based in Harrisburg.

One thought on “David Galluch: Celebrate Memorial Day, but remember what it’s really about”

  1. Beautiful tribute to the honored fallen and their beloved families from Dave Galluch. Thanks to all for their precious sacrifice!

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