Dear America, Please Don't Thank Me, (for me) it applies to more than Memorial Day. I don't deserve any adoration. I wanted to serve. I was able to serve and I took the opportunity with joy in my heart. The reality is I've never been called to a combat tour. I've never had to save a friend's life on the battle field, or hold them after they were lost. The closest I got was GTMO and jerks in cells. I've never felt worthy of anyone's attention. I've been blessed to be able to serve. I've been lucky to welcome our friends home.
So each year around Memorial Day I honestly feel guilty. I haven't done enough. I didn't DO enough. So my family and I hunted down a memorial service. Wandered a Veterans Cemetery to pay our respects... but it was always random. I just looked for a stone with no flowers and went over. Read the name aloud and hoped that somewhere their spirit was warmed by the sound of their name again. I'd wonder who they were, if they still have family in the area or at all. In the end I felt like what I was doing was superficial.
This year... One of our buddies, Sully was taking part in 60 to 60 ~ Ruck to Remember. I contacted the organizers and requested to be a part of the volunteer crew - have to admit. I was elated when they said YES. I was welcomed with open arms, tasks to complete and honestly joy. It felt really nice to have someone be that happy to see my ugly face.
The event was so humbling. Here are 80+ people carrying their ruck and climbing closer to Arlington through the heat... the dark... over mountains... The atmosphere was calm. I don't think it's because they were tired (trust me they were), but it was just such a quiet reverence. You'd think a group of this size filled with determined and ambitious people would be rowdy at rest points, but it was the opposite.
Veterans, civilians, men, women, young and old. Novices and Hardened athletes from Operation Enduring Warrior... They all sat quietly. Chatting about why they were here. The miles that were still ahead. Who they would visit when they "got to 60". They helped each other with foot care and dressing wounds, blisters and hot spots. They rested and then geared up for the next stretch.
What I found the most inspiring was the connection. Here they were, many strangers linked together in a selfless act to honor the fallen and serve their families. I can only imagine how a Gold Star Family would feel about having their Service Member's name, story and in some cases personal belongings carried throughout this entire march. Each pause filled with Stories of Valor. The participants only goal was to lift up the fallen. To keep their memory alive with each and every step.
I'm not going to share every detail with you. Some are too private. Some hurt too much... others you just have to experience to understand. If you've had a gap in your heart. If you've been searching for a way to DO SOMETHING to truly demonstrate that you REMEMBER and you FEEL the loss of our young men and women... get involved with this group of patriots. Do something more than put a sticker on a window. Ruck up and step off. ((if you aren't ready or able to Ruck - be a Red Shirt. Trust me it is worth it))
I'll see you there, Memorial Day Weekend 2016.
XO XO & Stuff,