This Memorial Day we honor the fallen, those who served and gave their life for our freedom. As you fire up the grill and set the picnic table, remember the importance of this day and those who sacrificed everything in service.

My thoughts are drawn to families who’ve experienced loss. I know that a military funeral is something you can never forget. Two members of my immediate family were remembered in military funerals.  First my oldest brother, then my dad. Both served their country with honor and distinction. Neither is still with us. But their memory is hardly forgotten.

When I looked at the small American flags placed by each of the graves, the events of their deaths rushed through my head like an old movie.

In the case of my brother, I remember his bloody dog tags handed to my father; the military officer who appeared in our kitchen on a warm summer day to tell us he wasn’t coming home; the shock on the face of his wife when we had to tell her of his death; his two-year-old son who couldn’t understand where daddy was and why he wouldn’t see him again; the second born child brought into this world without his father; my brother’s remains shipped overseas from a foreign land; a closed coffin draped with the American flag; the long eerie sound of Taps; and most of all, the gut wrenching tears and heartache we experienced as a family.

Years later, my father was laid to rest and his service in WW2 was honored. He was so proud to be a veteran and to be one of the Greatest Generation. I smile to myself when I think about how much he would have liked his own military funeral. Former members of several branches of the services participated in the ceremonial tradition of flag folding. It is quite moving. We were all crying when the elderly veteran ever-so-slowly saluted us, presented us with the flag and unhurriedly turned away in a march-like fashion.

Yes, we have to honor the fallen. They paid the ultimate price to keep us free.

So, this year, now that we can all gather again, I urge you to pause from your hamburgers and hot dogs. Take a moment to pray for the families who have lost loved ones. Consider a donation to an organization that helps families regroup from loss and perhaps reach out to someone who is experiencing this holiday without a loved one. Simply acknowledging that our service men and women are not forgotten goes a long way.

To my brother Gary, you are missed in ways I cannot express. Thank you for your willingness to put your life on the line so mine can remain free. To my dad, I honor your service and your courage to fight that most difficult war. You are also missed so much. And to the many that join me in remembering their loved ones, my heart is with you! We know the price you paid.

And we thank you for your service.

Honor the Fallen