As some of you know, I am a member of the Armed Services. I've been a Soldier with the United States Military for eleven years. It has allowed me to give back to a country that has given me so much, and to see the world from a completely different point of view. It has also afforded me the privilege to serve with the very best men and women the nation has to offer.
Every Memorial Day, I take a few minutes to reflect on the course of my life. What decisions kept me safe and out of the line of fire? What moments defined the path that took me from where I was to where I will be? Most of all, I think about the brothers and sisters that gave everything so I could continue on.
Normally, I list the names of those with whom I served: Friends I'll never see again; mentors who taught me how to lead and fight; teachers who made me what I am today.
But today, I want to give a simple message: Honor the fallen.
The men and women who serve this country do so for a variety of reasons. Some joined for patriotism. Some joined for family. Some joined because they seriously needed the money. All give up something. There is no service without sacrifice. But that is not the purpose of today. Memorial Day is about those who gave all, and that final gift must be cherished.
America today is troubled, split by partisan and ideological differences. We are motivated by fear more than courage, taking action to isolate and shelter ourselves from the phantoms of the "other." This pervasive attitude has led to a series of attacks on people of color, both citizens and immigrants. This week alone, that left three people dead, two of whom were military service members.
We've returned to a troubling attitude, where any criticism of leadership is seen as "anti-American." Where celebration of differences is a "white genocide." Where fulfilling the mission of our forefathers--welcoming immigrants and expanding the melting pot of the American Experiment--is tantamount to suicide.
I know, I appear to be getting off subject, but give me a moment.
I've served for eleven years, so I hope you can afford me some semblance of expertise when it comes to the mindset of the Soldier. I've spoken, at length, with veterans of 20-30 years, as well as fresh-faced privates just out of boot. Soldiers fight to protect not just the borders of this country, but the idea as well. We fight so that people of any religion can gather and pray in peace, a luxury not afforded in many countries around the world. We fight so this nation can continue to be a beacon of light that demonstrates the values of democracy and freedom.
I've served alongside men and women of every race and creed. I've served with first-generation and seventh-generation Americans. I've served with a man who came to this country illegally. I've served with Christians, Bhuddists, Muslims, Jews, and Atheists. I've served with the LGBTQ community. I've served with Republicans and Democrats.
And they fought for you. These people, some of whom you may not like, served this country for you. To keep you safe. To give you the peace of mind to go out and live your life. People died for your right to make this world better. Folk you rail against on Facebook died so you could live in a quiet country.
So here is my Memorial Day wish: Honor the fallen...and stop the anger.
The men and women of the armed forces don't fight to divide this country. They serve to keep it strong. That's what "these United States" means. Together we are mighty. United, we are invincible. And it is our differences that make us great. So please, even just for a day, don't post that snarky political tear down. Don't shout at your family for not believing EXACTLY as you do. Don't lose a friend because they voted differently in one election or the other.
Most of all, think about the greatest gift the Soldiers of the world have given: Time. They bought you time on this planet by sacrificing their own. How are you using that time, right now? Are you actively working to make the world better? Are you out there, getting your hands dirty (metaphorically, I know some people make the world better without shovels and hammers), or are you spending your days picking fights?
Remember the fallen on this Memorial Day, and let's continue to make this country, and indeed the entire world, a better place for the generations to come.
Oh, and don't post those passive-aggressive memes that "Memorial Day isn't about burgers and beer, it's about the dead." I can tell you that 99% of Soldiers are eating BBQ today. Don't tell people how to grieve. It's tacky.