Coming into this weekend, I can’t help but think about all of the veterans in my life. Men and women across the country have served or are serving so that we can have the very freedoms that many of us take for granted. They’ve lost so many people close to them from both life circumstance and their brave decision to defend our country and way of life, and one day each year will never be enough to thank them for their sacrifice.
Friends, while we’re thinking of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice this weekend it’s also a perfect time to give real, honest thought about what matters to us. People in our lives are suffering in silence while dealing with grief, depression, stress disorders, anxiety… the list goes on and on. If we don’t take the time to reach out and tell them what they mean to us and to put effort into our relationships we’re also making a statement about our values. The words we express give an emotional response that comes and goes, but taking action creates a lasting impression. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while or send a message to someone you’ve lost contact with over the years. Reminisce about old times and tell those stories. Make connections with people and develop a bond that could make a difference for someone – it might end up being you.
This Jonah Experience – as a special family member has coined it – has left many of us in a reflective state and has changed our thinking forever, but a time will come when those thoughts have to form actions. Because of my son and the boldness I’m working on bringing back into my life, I’m comfortable admitting that while I’ve worked at making connections I have also fallen short. His memory lives on like so many of our nations service men and women who have given their lives, and their death has inspired so many to do things that may never have happened otherwise. Don’t let a share on Facebook or a quick post be the only effort this year. Reach out to someone you know has served and thank them for the burden they have shouldered, knowing they’ve likely lost more than they care to share. Visit a cemetery and leave a rose on a fallen vet’s grave site. Volunteer at a shelter and realize the hardship that so, so many have endured after returning from their service over the years.
I think it’s important to make a separate point while I’m here – it’s no secret that many men have a hard time with emotions regardless of type, and especially with loss. Many of these men have experienced life changing events during times of service or are close to those who have, and feel the loss of others pales in comparison to the events happening in their lives at times. This is something that I’ve personally been told easily five times in the last two months in conversations about Jonah, and there’s nothing wrong with feeling that way. Please understand that while they aren’t expressing their feelings, they are experiencing it with you. We all have different triggers and ways of processing life, and it’s ok for them the same way it’s ok for me to write this in Jonah’s memory.
I want to take a moment to recognize two veterans in my life who live with the difficulty that comes with their service. Bernie, thank you for being such an example of strength in family and for the courage it takes to reach out to fellow vets as you come across them – Lord knows it’s likely one of the few times someone has bought them a cup of coffee and had a conversation with them in quite a while, and I believe strongly that those actions likely made a difference. And Dan, your daily fight to achieve your definition of success astounds me. You’ve endured so much over your short life and have a resolve that few know. Your sacrifice and burden has not gone unrecognized. You are both loved and appreciated.
This has been your Memorial Weekend Service announcement. Don’t take these days for granted