The military has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. My brother and twin sister followed in my dad’s footsteps and chose to attend West Point, meaning they will spend their college years training to become officers in the Army. From changes of command to Army-Navy football games, I’ve had the privilege of observing service members of all ages and backgrounds. So every time Memorial Day comes around, it feels a little different than other days off.
At its core, Memorial Day is a moment to pause and remember those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our country. On this day, my mind turns to my brother, twin sister, and their classmates. Should something disastrous happen to them, how would I want my community to remember their sacrifice?
In truth, I think the best kind of remembrance arises from personal reflection. While most SLS students won’t choose to attend a service academy or enlist in the military, we can still reflect on Memorial Day by visualizing the words we walk under as we arrive at school each day: Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve. We’re encouraged to practice leadership and use our talents and passions to serve others, both on the Hilltop and off. This day and every day, we should seek to honor fallen service members by emulating the selflessness, fraternity, and commitment that make them true leaders.
But take it one step further. Remember that every time a soldier makes the ultimate sacrifice, a family is left behind.
For years, I’ve volunteered for the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, which provides college scholarships for military children who lost a parent in the line of duty. Through this work, I’ve met many of those children and spouses who wished their loved ones goodbye, never to see them again. In every interaction, their strength and courage is overwhelming, and I’m struck by their unshakeable pride in their fallen family members and in the values they died to protect. These families embody servant leadership, and they deserve our gratitude for their depth of bravery and altruism.
Perhaps the trials of the past 15 months can give us a fresh perspective on Memorial Day. Everyone can recall the feelings of depression and loneliness created by our isolation from friends and family. So as life begins to return to normal, remember those whose family reunions will still be incomplete. Remember those who are still on the front lines, and those who will go to sleep thinking of the threats their family members are facing halfway across the world.
Remember those men and women who serve without expectation of reward or celebration. Remember those who run towards the fighting, not out of blind obedience, but out of a commitment to those safe at home and to the values of democracy and liberty.
Take a moment to pause. Then, honor their memory by going forth to serve the people and the ideals you hold dear.