A Day To Remember

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Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while defending our nation in their service with the U.S. Armed Forces.

The reason Memorial Day is so special to me is that it reminds me that citizens of our country, ordinary people like you and me, are willing to lay down their lives in defense of our country and our way of life. It sometimes bothers me that this doesn’t resonate with some people. Many take the freedom and liberties we have as Americans for granted. I served in the U.S. Army and have been stationed abroad. I’ve learned from both my experiences living and serving abroad, as well as from people I’ve met from other countries, that the United States of America is special and represents something far greater than the sum of its parts… meaning, the people and communities who comprise our nation, the rights and freedoms we all enjoy and the opportunities we have to make a life for ourselves and for our families make this country worth fighting for, worth laying down your life for.

People outside the U.S. want to be a part of our way of life and enjoy the freedoms we enjoy, so much so that they’re willing to put their lives, and the lives of their families, at risk to make this happen. We’re seeing this–in real life–at our southern border. So, for those for who Memorial Day does not resonate the same as it does for me, I genuinely and compassionately say this – this land is your land, this land is my land. We are all a part of what makes this country great.

On Memorial Day, I reflect upon my service and my decision to serve our country. When I accepted my appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, and eventually swore my oath of service as a commissioned officer, making the ultimate sacrifice was not top of mind for me. My sense of service arose from growing up in a patriotic household in which family values were influenced by duty and service. My father was a career soldier and instilled among my seven siblings and me the desire to do something meaningful with our lives.

West Point’s motto – Duty, Honor, Country – resonates with me as does General MacArthur’s 1962 address to the Corp of Cadets in which he referenced West Point’s motto: “those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

On Memorial Day, I also think about some close friends–fellow soldiers who made that ultimate sacrifice. One in particular, John McHugh, died on May 18, 2010 when a suicide bomber steered his explosives-laden Toyota minibus into an American convoy as it moved through the thick of rush-hour traffic in Kabul, Afghanistan. Forty-six at the time, COL McHugh was one of the highest-ranking officers to die in the War in Afghanistan. He left behind his wife, five children and a newly-born granddaughter.

John and I were classmates at USMA – Class of ‘86 — Courage Never Quits (our class motto). We attended flight school together and were stationed together for our first assignment in Nuremberg, Germany. We played soccer together at West Point and in Germany, and we both served as UH60-Blackhawk platoon leaders in S Troop, 4th Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. We deployed to Operation Desert Storm together. Rest in Peace Johnny Mac.

Memorial Day is a great time to build patriotism and share with family and team members why our country is the greatest on Earth. It’s not about making the day a history lesson, rather it is about helping others understand that the day is about the men and women who have died for our country. In honor of Memorial Day, on May 25th, DailyValor–DailyPay’s ERG–will host Rob Couture, retired Army Master Sergeant and current VFW Director of Communications and Public Relations.

In the excitement of a three-day weekend, cookouts, parades and summer being so near, it is easy to ignore or forget about the true meaning of Memorial Day: to remember and honor all military personnel who have died in the service of our country. Let us never forget the sacrifices of our fallen and their families, and keep those who gave everything to protect our country at the forefront of our minds during our celebrations. You may hear this refrain once or twice over the holiday weekend, I’m sure I’ll be singing it in full voice:

And I’m proud to be an American

Where at least I know I’m free

And I won’t forget the men who died

Who gave that right to me

And I’d gladly stand up next to you

And defend Her still today

‘Cause there ain’t no doubt

I love this land

God Bless the U.S.A.

Songwriter: Lee Greenwood

God Bless the USA lyrics © Peermusic Publishing, Warner Chappell Music, Inc

Have a very safe and enjoyable Memorial Day.

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