Memorial Day used to be about a three-day weekend. Cookouts. The unofficial start of summer. Beaches. Vacation.
Then my son got an appointment to the Naval Academy. Now it’s different.
There is no “Happy Memorial Day.” There is no “thank you for your service” to those in uniform. I remind others (and myself):
🇺🇸 Armed Forces Day is for those currently wearing the uniform.
🇺🇸 Veterans Day is for those who have worn the uniform for the last time.
🇺🇸 Memorial Day is for those who never had the opportunity to take off their uniform for the last time.
During our four years of USNA association, we were introduced to the concept of our son losing a brother in arms. Before my son saw his first Christmas break from the Academy, leukemia claimed Midshipman Jason Jablonski. Recent grad Joshua Kaleb Watson lost his life in the line of duty while both Duke Carrillo and David Forney passed away before they could receive their diploma and commission. During the Class of 2021’s commissioning ceremony, John Johnson became the first Mid to receive a posthumous degree, having passed away during winter break.
With my daughter just weeks away from officially becoming a part of USAFA’s Class of 2025, I take a moment to consider the very real possibility that she, too, will lose a classmate well before their time. It’s a sobering thought and one I do not like to dwell on.
It’s become obvious to me that when I meet a veteran or someone currently serving, they’ve likely lost someone who deserves to be remembered on Memorial Day. Today is not a day to celebrate – there are plenty of opportunities for that – but instead a day to honor the memories of those who never had a chance to take off that uniform for the final time. As they say, “all gave some, some gave all.”
For that, we should all be humbled and grateful.