Memorial Day honors those who have died in defense of our country. Veterans Day, in November, honors those who served. For this reason I do not celebrate Memorial Day, I observe it.
However, there’s one tiny part of Memorial Day that is a bit celebratory on a personal level.
Fifteen years ago, the Sailors I was responsible for were returning home. These sailors had been boots-on-the-ground supporting the Army. Many had carried weapons every day and dealt with mortar fire, rockets, and IEDs. All had worked hard while enduring desert heat, mountain cold, or ankle deep mud.
Some I knew well, others, not so much, but given that there were hundreds spread all over Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait, it wasn’t possible to spend more than a little time with some. I never know their political views nor did I care. I do know that we had a number who were not American citizens. Dozens were sworn in as citizens in desert cammies while deployed. Dozens more had completed all the requirements and were sworn in after they returned home.
The Command Master Chief and I were the last ones off the last plane home. He took the lead, as he often did, and we checked inside the passenger compartment, then the cargo bay to make sure that all our people were off the plane and inside the terminal.
Together, we breathed a sigh of relief. We had returned without a single casualty. On Memorial Days, we would not grieve the loss of any of our Sailors.
However, more than a few of those from other units stationed with our Sailors had lost men and women. Today, while thanking God that none of our people are honored today, in war, too many are lost–the number doesn’t matter, it is always too many.
Far too many.