Small Gestures, Larger Meaning

Written by Retreat Administrator, Tom Richmond, US Army, MSG, Team Forcado Cabo 8 OIF & OND

On Memorial Day, we remember those service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  Memorial Day is not the day to thank a veteran for his service, that is Veterans Day. I’m not going to get into the history or how the holiday has changed, you can use the googles to read about that. But, I am going to write about what the holiday means to a combat veteran.

Memorial Day can bring up many emotions. Remembering good friends, but also remembering that they did not come home alive like you did. Along with this comes survivors guilt and other feelings that can make the day very emotional. On this Memorial Day I remember SGT Finch, 3rd ACR, killed by a sniper after I left Iraq. I remember SGT Arthur and SPC Baily, 3rd ID, who were killed in a vehicle rollover while supporting my team. I think of those that I served with who never got over the emotional wounds of combat and took their own lives years after they returned home. These numbers dwarf those I served with in combat.

How do I feel when someone thanks me for my service on Memorial Day? I feel embarrassed and mad that I am being thanked for my friend’s sacrifice. I came home in one piece a little broken physically and mentally but, in one piece. My friends were not that lucky. That is the dilemma on Memorial Day when you encounter a veteran. You don’t know how the day has affected them or will.

I would suggest that if you do know the difference, thank military personnel and veterans for their service. Tell them that you hope they have a good day. Let them know that at church on Sunday with your family, you said a prayer for the fallen. Shake their hand or give them a pat on the shoulder. Go to one of the national cemeteries or a local cemetery and leave flowers at a service member’s grave. There are many service members from older wars who have not had that done for them in years. If someone who knew me as a veteran came to me and told me that they did that on Memorial Day, I would probably cry.

Remember that today is a solemn day. Try to attend a Memorial Day parade or ceremony. These small gestures mean the most to a veteran. It makes us feel good when we look around and see those that we currently live with have taken the time to come out and remember with us.