For some of us, Memorial Day may or may not be a day we remember those who lost their lives serving our country in the military. Many of us will fill this 3-day weekend with picnics, cookouts, and parades. These are all wonderful ways to make memories, but Memorial Day will be different for me, especially this year.
I’ve always been very thankful for our military serving our country, and my family has done their share of service in the military. My father and several uncles served overseas in WWII. Two of my eight brothers served in the Army, another retired from the Air Force, and my husband is an Air Force veteran.
My son, Logan, is currently in the Navy.
Logan has spent much of his nearly 5 years in the Navy on the USS ANNAPOLIS. He’s a husband to Jessica and a dad to our 2-year-old granddaughter, Maylene, who have lived with us for the last 13 months while Logan has been at sea. To have had this precious piece of my son’s life and family with me while he’s been at sea was a gift and a blessing, even in all the chaos.
He flew home last week to pack up his little family and move to Norfolk, VA this coming Memorial Day, for a few short years of shore duty. I can barely see those words through my tears as I type.
And so, my Memorial Day holiday will be different. Bittersweet.
Texts, emails, Skype sessions, and phone calls were few and far between on his tours. But I saved one particularly lengthy text he sent to me one evening. It’s a reminder of his painful, personal sacrifice, and it molds my prayers for him. When I first read the text it drove me to my knees.
“Mom…I hate how much time I’ve had to spend away from Maylene. She doesn’t even really know me and spends time around everyone more than me. I’m her dad…
A good dad does what’s right for her, ya know? Doesn’t let her play where she’ll get hurt, doesn’t always let her get her way because then she won’t be ready for the real world when she can’t cry herself into getting her way.
But I want to be her favorite person. I wanna come home on leave and when she sees me, she comes running, yelling ‘daddy.’ I want to call out ‘Maylene’ and she stops what she’s doing and runs to me for a hug.
Maylene’s my daughter, but I feel like she doesn’t know me when I come home on leave, and I don’t know how to handle it. Out to sea, I can deal with the separation because I’m constantly occupied with work, and right now I can’t even email her because she can’t read yet. But coming home and having her not recognize me? I’m lost.
I love my job, I really do.
I get the big picture that what I do will eventually lead to maintaining her freedom, but I hate how much time I’m away from her. I don’t know if in the end it will be worth it to miss out on all I’ve missed with her just to give her a more secure life. I’m afraid that when she’s old enough to understand the concept of ‘dad isn’t here because he loves you that much,’ that she won’t really care and won’t forgive me for not being around.”
My son, like all our military service men and women, is part of only 1% of American citizens who make a conscious choice to raise their hands and swear to serve our country in wartime and peace without asking for anything in return.
They sacrifice time with families and loved ones so that we, the other 99%, can have freedoms we often take for granted. They miss their children’s milestones, all kinds of holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. Some even miss the birth of their son or daughter because they had a job they promised they would do. It’s often a thankless job, but they do it.
I’ve watched my son say goodbye to his little family multiple times without knowing when he would come home.
So no matter your political alliance, how you think, live, or feel, please take time this Memorial day to recognize the sacrifices many of these men and women have made – some with their very lives – so that we can have this 3-day weekend and fill it with memories with our families and loved ones.
We can choose to make this Memorial Day a day of gratitude and remembrance for the active military, the veterans, and those who lost their lives serving this country. In honor and memory of them, we can use the time to cherish those freedoms given to us by their sacrifices, because whether they have served in war or peacetime, they’ve made sacrifices we can never fully appreciate.