For many Americans, Memorial Day weekend marks the end of school, the beginning of summer and a season of fun. For service members, veterans and families of the fallen, it means so much more. Memorial Day is a time when we reflect and remember those with whom we have served and lost over the years. I don't think any article expresses the meaning of this holiday more profoundly than the one [below] which was written by our West Point classmate and fellow Army officer, Jaimie Leonard. She wrote A Soldier's View of Memorial Day for the Warwick Advertiser, her hometown paper, back in 2010. Three years later, she would tragically become one of the reasons we celebrate Memorial Day. Jaimie was killed in action on June 8th, 2013 in Afghanistan on her third combat deployment to the Middle East. Lieutenant Colonel Jaimie Leonard is the highest ranking woman to be killed in action in U.S. history. On Memorial Day and everyday, we hold her, other members of The Long Grey Line who have fallen, as well as members of our Army Special Forces community in our hearts. We recognize and remember Captain Dan Eggers who was killed in action on May 29th 2004 and Staff Sergeant Mike Simpson who died of wounds on May 1, 2013, two Green Berets with whom we have a deep connection. To the generations of warriors who made the ultimate sacrifice and your families, we are grateful. We remember your sacrifice. We live our best lives and continue to serve in honor of these warriors and their heroic legacy.
A Soldiers View of Memorial Day
By Jaimie Leonard
From the Warwick Advertiser
Originally PUBLISHED MAY 27, 2010
When I was a young girl growing up in Warwick, I’m not really sure I really ever truly understood what Memorial Day meant. In my young mind, it marked a day where my mother would have us officially in white shoes for church. There would be neighborhood picnic barbecues, softball games and parades with the American Legion marching down main street. For me, a veteran was my grandpa who fought in WW II and all those older men who wore military-style hats with a bunch of pins in them. As I grew older, I appreciated it as a three-day weekend with time off from school or work. Even later, when I joined what was then a peacetime Army, I failed to truly appreciate the emotional significance of this holiday. Memorial Day felt the same as Veterans Day. It was a day to thank soldiers. Being one at the time I appreciated the thanks, but I still failed to correctly realize what it meant.
It was not until I actually went to war in Iraq and when fellow soldiers in my unit failed to make it back from patrol did I truly internalize the distinction. It wasn’t until then that I truly valued how these brave men and women who died serving our country deserved their own day memorializing their sacrifice. Furthermore, realizing it is not only their sacrifice that requires recognition, but also their family left behind. My best friend lost her husband in Iraq, and I think a piece of her also died that day.
As I’ve gained more perspective, I’ve also regarded other concepts such as citizenship in a different light. Every day we hear about court cases trying to establish or expand the boundaries as to what our rights as citizens are. As citizens, we have the right to free speech, to freedom of religion, to work where we want if we are qualified, and to own guns. It is a rare day that I hear a conversation turn to what the duties of citizenship are for those who enjoy the rights protected by it. For those who have died for their country, they took measure of this duty and sacrificed their lives for it.
It is my wish this Memorial Day that you consider your duties as citizens. The duty goes beyond serving in the Armed Forces, jury duty, taxes or voting. Your duties are to each other, not some esoteric concept.
Remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country in war, but also honor those others who sacrifice in other ways to make this country great – law enforcement, firefighters, teachers, volunteers, etc. Please honor them in deed and not just giving thanks, parades, or planting flowers or flags on graves. Take measure of what have you done for your country and ask yourself if you could do more.