Like many Americans, I use to think of Memorial Day as the kickoff to summer. It was a weekend for barbecues, friends, and maybe some fishing. It was the weekend we would head up to Northern Michigan and wade into Lake Michigan- which was always freezing.
But in 2004 that all changed. The idea of war, and of losing Service Members, became very real to this military wife. My husband was put on alert for deployment a week after my daughter, Allison, was born. Six months later we said goodbye to him and 151 other men as they headed to Baghdad. They were going to a dangerous area and given a dangerous mission.
On March 15th 2005 I woke up with a sinking feeling. We knew they were on some sort of black out (meaning that someone on their huge base had been killed or injured). We knew this because the communication from over there would stop abruptly. They had been on black out many times; but it was always some other Unit that was getting the phone call or knock on the door. For some reason I knew this time was going to be different. It was.
That day we found out that one of my husband's Soldiers, SGT Ricky Keiffer, had been shot by a sniper and killed.
His was the first military funeral I had ever been to. It was the first time I had rode in the long procession from the church to the cemetery- watching as hundreds of people lined the streets. There were Boy Scout troops, day cares, senior citizens who had been wheeled out to the road, and many more waving flags and paying honor to this Fallen Hero.
It was the first time I had seen the flag folded and handed to a widow. It was the first time I heard TAPS played at a funeral.
Memorial Day is no longer "Happy" for me. It is a solemn day spent in service to others. It is a day to teach my children to stand when the flag passes and to be quiet as they place the wreath at the monument in our small town. It is a day to reflect on the freedoms that have come at such a high price.
Memorial Day is the most important holiday of the year for our Country. Without those willing to sacrifice their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, America would not have become, and stayed, independent all these years.
My prayer today is that America continues to be the land of the free; because the brave have done, and are still doing, their part. It is up to us to make sure their sacrifice is worth it.
We do that by fighting for the things that make America great, like opportunity, liberty and freedom. We do that by fighting for our families, and taking care of our neighbors. We do that by never forgetting that America is a country set apart, founded on the principles that all men are created equal with rights endowed by their Creator.
Join me in praying for our troops and their families. May God Bless America!