I have always looked forward to Memorial Day. In fact, it is my favorite holiday because it officially kicks off my favorite season — summer.
I remember how my father-in-law, a World War II vet, would always participate in Memorial Day services in our hometown. But I must confess that it was only recently when I saw this quote on my brother's website that it really hit me:
"A veteran — whether active duty, discharged, retired, national guard or reserve — is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount of up to and including 'my life.' Our military families did not write this check but make lifetime payments on this promise by supporting their veteran's service."
It really hit me that Memorial Day is an even more special day than I imagined. It is a day to be grateful to those vets we know and those we do not, those who are still with us and those who are not. And our gratitude should certainly not be limited to one day a year.
Then it hit me that if the reason for Memorial Day is something I take for granted, what else might I be taking for granted? Like the collective outcome of our veterans' service: our freedom!
I vaguely remember a class decades ago in grade school that taught us about the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, and I remember learning something about our "inalienable rights" as citizens of the United States. I am pretty sure we covered "freedom." All of that material was mandatory, and I recall it being taught as though it was mandatory. It was just plain boring! And I really don't remember it ever being revisited in higher grades, college or otherwise.
But now I wonder how many of us think of freedom as just another ho-hum word. I am guessing that those who wrote the blank check understand that freedom is not just another word.
I remember hearing that there are two kinds of freedom — freedom from and freedom to. Freedom from such things as the KGB, bigotry and illegal discrimination, for example. And freedom to practice the religion of your choice, vote as you choose, live where you choose, for example. In our country, the list on both sides could go on and on.
I have yet to make that list of specific freedoms from and to, but I am giving myself a coaching challenge this week to make my list. And then, to thank every vet I possibly can for the specific freedoms their selfless service has afforded me, my family and friends.
Please join me in making your lists of specific freedoms: "I enjoy the freedom from …" and "I enjoy the freedom to …" And when you have your lists made, take a moment to thank every vet you know and please remember to thank their families. After all, we are free to express our thanks even after Memorial Day is over. Let's help our vets have their best year yet by expressing our heartfelt gratitude!