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Today is Memorial Day in the US, my original home. As I’ve aged, Memorial Day has taken on more and more importance to me. Ironic since both of my grandfathers fought in World War II and my father was also in the Army, though lucky enough not to have seen combat. I guess I now better understand the nature of the complex challenges facing the military and I certainly have more to live for with children of my own.
As a kid, recognising all those brave American service men and women who lost their lives for our country and to preserve our way of life was very much what Memorial Day stood for. However, that sentiment was equalled by being the weekend that the pool opened and a summer of swimming and diving kicked off.
Living as an expat has really focusses the mind on what it means to be an American. Being questioned about the strong patriotism Americans all have and challenged by the unfathomable knowledge of all the words of the national anthem, all of a sudden, it is very clear exactly why these symbols are so important and as natural as taking a breath. Americans love America just like any other country loves their own heritage. Memorial Day simply highlights one of the more challenging sacrifices that Americans are called to make to ensure the freedoms we hold dear are available to us.
When I was first out of school and working in my first full time job in DC, I had a friend whose father was an Army General. I had never met an active duty member of the armed forces with such seniority. I was honoured to be invited to their house on Fort Myer in Arlington one Memorial Day. I was in awe of the conversation that night from the simple yet powerful words said to honour our troops before the meal to the many topics, political, military and otherwise, debated that evening. I’m not sure we agreed, but we always respected both sides of the argument. This evening shattered any stereotype I could ever hold of the military.
So today, I thought I’d share my reflection on an American holiday which is as important as ever with more and more young men and women paying the ultimate price in support of their country. In our globalised world, this applies to both Americans and our Allies. No matter the politics or the morality of war and military conflict, these are young people with hopes, dreams, and families. Today is their day.
Crack open a cold beer, dive into a swimming pool, fire up the barbecue, celebrate the start of summer, and please say thank you to our troops.