“Every day is Memorial Day to me”
Posted on May 27th, 2014 by Col. David Sutherland
Last Tuesday I got into work late. I’d been visiting Section 60 at Arlington Cemetery.
While others celebrated Memorial Day this past Monday, the truth is that every day is Memorial Day to me. I stood side-by-side with men and women who are no longer with us, who were so dedicated to their mission and our country that they put it over their own lives. I am the chairman of Easter Seals Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services. Easter Seals Dixon Center is named after U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Donnie D. Dixon, who was killed in action in Balour, Iraq, while protecting me.
So while it’s appropriate and right to designate a day to remember those who have been killed in the line of duty, I would like to suggest that we think about it more than just once a year.
We can do this by honoring the families of the fallen and the battle buddies left behind:
• One of the best ways to honor the memory of a veteran who is no longer with us is to acknowledge that they’ve left loved ones behind who may need some assistance reintegrating into the community. Get to know them. Sit down with these remarkable survivors and simply listen, one-on-one.
• Support legislation like the post-9/11 GI Bill and many state laws that enable spouses and children of deceased service members to get an education.
• Put up a flag to honor our country and those who have served it.
• Get personal. If you know a military family, offer to help babysit or watch the kids one weekend afternoon to give mom or dad a much-needed break.
• Use your network. Encourage your contacts to be inclusive of opportunities for veterans, military families and families of the fallen, whether it is through employment or support by faith-based and nonprofit social sector organizations.
One of my favorite books is Red Badge of Courage, the story of young Private Henry Fleming, a new soldier who experiences his first battle during the Civil War. I love this passage:
“So it came to pass that as he trudged from the place of blood and wrath his soul changed. He had been to touch the Great Death and found that, after all, it was but the Great Death. Scars faded as flowers and the youth saw that the world was a world for him. He had rid himself of the red sickness of battle and the sultry nightmare was in the past. He turned now with a lover’s thirst to images of tranquil skies, fresh meadows, cool brooks, an existence of soft and eternal peace.”
Private Fleming was lucky to have worked through this transition on the battlefield. Our current veterans and military families may require more time—and it has to be done within the context of community.
So this week, as we return from the Memorial Day weekend and close out Military Appreciation Month, let’s work to make that shift a smooth one.