There are certain memories held tightly by each of us that induce such a strong nostalgic happiness and magic that we feel if they were ever allowed to fall through our fingers, so too would a beautiful piece of ourselves vanish from our lives. These memories are formed from actual experiences, ones that could not have come to exist in the beginning if we were not blessed with a free country in which we may prosper and savor life. One such memory of my own, which replays each time with as much sweetness as when I first experienced it, took place in a frosty winter in Pennsylvania.
My parents were taking me, my brother, and my sister to get ice cream. As we made our way down the mountainside, we rolled down the windows and the wind readily swept my hair in all directions with a 30 degree gale. I sat in the front seat, body cocooned in the warmth of a down feather blanket, head out of the window, and face to face with the frigid current. My eyes raced through the blackness of the night, up the towering pines that surrounded me, and jumped to the glowing moon. I was ready to take on the world as I was lost in the complete awe-inspiring majesty of night’s serenity and the icy chaos that enveloped me. My own, and everyone in this country’s ability to re-live our most cherished experiences is extended to us only as long as we also have the ability to live them for the first time. It is this privilege that we have, the privilege to experience a beautiful and free country of which we may later reminisce, that is guarded and protected by the men and women of the Armed Forces. For this service, we honor and remind those lost in the strides for freedom that they are not forgotten or taken for granted, but appreciated and respected on Memorial Day.
For many of those who enter the Armed Forces, their personal enjoyment and making of cheerful memories is selflessly forfeited so that they may preserve the joy of the many. They willingly lay down their lives for the cause of providing us with privileges that the people of so many countries find unfathomable. Their commitments often wreak havoc in their lives during their absence, and with those blessed with the occasion of a safe homecoming whom we honor each Veterans Day, upon their return as well. Marriages are strained, childhoods are missed, homesickness runs rampant, injury is likely, and depression is common.
Does not this exceptional level of loyalty and sacrifice on our behalf deserve exceptional recognition? In a world where we take far too much for granted, Memorial Day is one where we must pour out our sincerest thanks and respect as a token of our appreciation for what they have given up. As Veterans Day reminds the recently returned soldier struggling with PTSD that his pain and altruism were not and are not in vain, and proves to those who proudly adorn their silver hair with their military cap that we as a nation still understand the importance of what they fought so valiantly for, Memorial Day reminds the American people of something equally as important. It reminds us of those who fought so that little girls could wrap their tiny bodies in a warm blanket, and so we can have the occasional leisurely ice cream trip, and so we can all experience the exhilaration of knowing that the country we live in is a free one.
The men and women of the military, past and present, have given and continue to give us the liberty to take on the world, as I felt that I could on that November night, through their allegiance and sacrifice. They allow us to partake in the magnificent experiences held by a free nation, those which we may later re-live as sweet memories. They are our Memory Guard, and for that, we honor them this Memorial Day.