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Another Voice: Connect at a personal level to honor the fallen

By Chad Storlie

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance. Memorial Day is a day of appreciation for sacrifice. Memorial Day is a day of profound thanks. To truly feel and appreciate the sacrifice of Memorial Day, we need to make the remembrance personal.

Too often, Memorial Day can be a day of distant appreciation and remembrance because we do not make the feelings of loss, the feelings of sacrifice and the feelings of appreciation personal. A moving and profound way to begin Memorial Day is to watch the sunrise at a national cemetery.

No matter how many times I see row upon row of white gravestone markers of fallen military members, it strikes a deep and moving sense of appreciation. Watching the sun rise over these graves is a moving way to begin the day. Afterward, walk the graves and say some of the names aloud. Reading the names aloud makes us personalize the fallen.

I lost several friends in Iraq, and through my years of military service. However, what I spend time telling people is how they lived, the type of people that they were and how their friendship still benefits me today.

One friend was an amazing shot with a pistol, rifle or a machine gun. You name it, he could literally pick it up and shoot it as an expert. When I joined my Special Forces team, I was the worst shot on the whole team. He taught me, painstakingly, how to shoot at an expert level over several months with both U.S. and foreign weapons.

To this day, his lesson in the importance of being an expert in your profession and teaching others how to be an expert was an invaluable personal and professional lesson for me.

These are the stories that I want others to remember about my fallen friends. I don’t want how they died to be remembered. I want their smiles, their funny stories and the lessons and leadership that they enacted daily to be the memories for others.

Remembering the spouses and the children of the fallen is especially important on Memorial Day and throughout the year. Find ways to donate, to mentor and to employ spouses and children of the fallen. Unmindful donations are easy to do, but there are other ways to help in a meaningful manner. Tutoring a child, supporting a college fund, helping a fallen spouse network and continuing a career are all great ways to support the families of the fallen.

Making Memorial Day personal is creating Memorial Day traditions that truly recognize and appreciate the fallen. Remembering those who fell in battle as good, kind, funny and amazing people creates a deep sense of loss, but a powerful and unfading appreciation of fallen soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen not as numbers, but as people.

Helping surviving family members is a moving step in appreciation to ensure that the families’ loss is remembered and appreciated so they can move on with their lives. Do all you can to remember on a personal level this Memorial Day.

Chad Storlie is a retired Special Forces colonel and author of “Combat Leader to Corporate Leader” and “Battlefield to Business Success.”

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