We as humans dispense honor in various ways. We honor those we deem have served us in some capacity: in war, in art, in leadership. We remember and honor the dead and those who’ve achieved milestones of age, accomplishment, birth, or marriage with cards, phone calls, flowers, and gifts.
The Bible says we are to honor our fathers and mothers. If we do this, we are promised long lives. (Exodus 20:12). Society demands we honor its laws. Companies require we honor their guidelines. Friends request we honor their secrets.
On this Memorial Day we, as a country, attempt to honor our fallen heroes––the service men and women who have defended our freedoms and borders from threats both without and within. It is a noble purpose that is in turns revered, glorified, vilified, and condemned. Many have been called to it with a sense of duty. Others were compelled whether by draft or lack of better prospects. But whatever the reason for joining, each became a member of an exclusive group. A group called upon to sacrifice for the greater good.
Thankfully, the majority return home, though many are far from whole. It is easy to remember those who died–to honor them with wreaths and taps and salutes, but we often ignore those whose sacrifices left them alive, but changed. Those forced to adapt and find a new place within a society that would often rather ignore them, a society whose eyes pass over them so their missing limbs and altered bodies will not disturb our dreams. We want to forget there are those whose nightmares awaken them, whose trauma brings incapacitation in times of stress. Those who cannot celebrate the birth of the nation for which they gave so much for fear of an attack their service left hiding within their own brains.
It is these whom we must endeavor to honor alongside their fallen brothers and sisters. Those who live, but bear the scars of their sacrifices in their own bodies. These we must cease to ignore, cease to look past. This Memorial Day I challenge you to see the ones who continue to sacrifice. Acknowledge those who bear witness to the exorbitant cost of FREEDOM.
Offer up a prayer that they can experience and enjoy the freedom they helped to maintain. Offer a hand in thanks. A smile. Friendship. Acceptance. Perhaps most importantly, offer a purpose, a place they can belong. Many would reject the title of hero, though I believe it fits, so instead, call them American and stand proudly beside them at parades, speeches, workplaces, and in communities. No longer allow your gaze to slide past for your own comfort, but offer a flag and your notice.
Only by seeing each member of society as important and serving a unique purpose can we avoid the fatal mistakes of the world’s past and continue to have a future.
The future symbolized by the birth of a new baby, the reception of a diploma, the exchanging of marriage vows cannot materialize without hope. For why build a future if there is no hope? Purpose leads to hope and hope often points to purpose. These are interchangable. So offer hope to someone today–give them a purpose–and have a hand in building the future that freedom allows.
Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to remember with honor. Connect with me through email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @rebeccareed22 I read and answer every email and will respond on twitter as well.
Thank you to Selena Morar on Unsplash for the featured image.