By Jessica McKinney
The beautiful thing about memories of those loved and lost is that there are so many ways in which these recollections can manifest. The bittersweet remembrance of a loved one can be conjured up in the most vivid of ways by the most minor and mundane of occurrences—the shape of a young woman’s smile identical to her late grandmother’s, the cackle of a young man’s genuine laugh reminiscent of his fallen brother’s, the mild shuffle in an older man’s gait unmistakably inherited from his father. For those without a personal connection to those lost, such affections may flit by as routine, unremarkable, inconsequential; however, for those encountering a memory rekindled, these moments can be inexplicably powerful.
Is the prior knowledge of a person individually, however, necessary to feel a personal connection to his or her life? Only a week ago, our nation came together to commemorate those in our military who selflessly made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our way of life. Sitting in the audience of the memorial ceremony during the King’s County 148th Memorial Day Parade, listening attentively to the tear-jerking reading of the individual names of the fallen who resided in the local community, I pictured what it would be like to know each of them personally. What types of inside jokes did they share with their siblings? What were their formative memories with their oldest friends? What genre of music stirred their souls? What was it about their lives, their values, their character that motivated them to become a part of something bigger than themselves while knowing that they could lose it all for the sake of many who they would never even meet?
My heart is with the Gold Star Family members who now carry the torches of their fallen loved ones and must serve as the sole respondents of these most personal questions. While Memorial Day may be a week in the past—with wreaths delicately laid and poetic melodies of Taps faded into the distance—the sobering reality of the impact such sacrifices have on a family is something our Gold Star community members must live with every single day. And while those of us fortunate enough not to have endured such a loss could never purport to understand such tragedy, we can still offer our expressions of support, compassion, and sensitivity on a personal and heartfelt level—and on an ongoing basis. We can acknowledge that one person’s seemingly perfunctory remark or mannerism could unearth a wave of emotion and poignant, bittersweet remembrance for one coping with a loss. Better yet, we can weave the solidarity and principles of Memorial Day consciously into our everyday routines, offering our utmost expressions of support and gratitude to all military families for whom sacrifice and service are a way of life—without needing a national holiday to serve as a reminder to do so.
Will you join me in thanking a military family today?