Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day: RECOGNIZE!

Some thoughts on Memorial Day...

Memorial Day, at its core, is a day when we take time to remember, honor, champion, and recognize the extraordinary people who did something we didn't: died serving their country in the armed forces. This includes those people who died in a war, or other type of conflict, as well as those who died while training in the military, at any point in our country’s history.

Soldiers and military members, ultimately, do as they're told, to the best of their ability. This is their job description for as long as they're a member of our armed forces. This means hardcore, dangerous training, and at times, fighting in wars. Sometimes it means dying while doing your job. So we honor those people for that sacrifice.

I honor many people on Memorial Day, but I especially honor Michael Cooke, who was/is a friend of mine, and whom I served with in the Marine's 2D Reconnaissance Battalion (one of the Marine's Special Operations’ Forces), for 4.5 years. He is from the region (Horsham, PA), and is the only child of Joan Cooke, who still lives there. I visit his resting place with his mom occasionally, sometimes on Memorial Day.

I was there when he died, as we served in Desert Storm together. He was the only one from our Battalion who died during that conflict. He earned a Bronze Star with Valor, for his extraordinary observation and technical skills, while on a highly dangerous mission in enemy territory. His mission was to negotiate, observe, discern and chart the minefields that Saddam Hussein's defenses had established just inside the Kuwaiti/Saudi Arabian border, so that the whole of international forces could pass through them, unabated. Well, he succeeded in that extremely precarious venture, but upon return to our location, while routinely unloading gear and weaponry, one of his hand grenades exploded directly next to him, and he died instantly. The good news is that he didn't know this was about to happen, and he didn’t feel a thing. He was there one second, and the very next second he was gone.

Not a week has gone by in 19 years that I don't think about him. Michael, we miss you dude. And we honor you. Joan, have a peaceful Memorial Day.

Remember folks, soldiers don't start wars. Soldiers suffer in wars.

The least we can do on Memorial Day is honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, while serving their country.

Memorial Day salutation: People often ask me, if it’s proper to say “Happy Memorial Day!” While I’ve said this at times, it may not always be the most appropriate thing to say; on its surface, it sounds a bit strange. But the important thing is to acknowledge the meaning of the day, and respect the sacrifice servicemen and women made, while sharing that recognition with surviving family members and friends, as well as active military members.

I’ve searched several times for a standard or ‘etiquettely-correct’ salutation and haven’t been able to find one. But below are some possibilities. Use your best judgment.

-“Have a peaceful Memorial Day”
-“Have a good Memorial Day”
-“I/we remember your sacrifice today”
-“Our prayers are with you today.”
-“Have a blessed Memorial Day.”
-“I’m thinking of you on Memorial Day.”
-“I share your loss on Memorial Day.”

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