Back in the early 1980s I was about 6 or 7 years old. It should be no surprise that back then I was younger, shorter, and had a much smaller afro. The first time I entered the airport in Philadelphia, PA I cried like nobody’s business. I wasn’t even getting on the plane. My mom did. She was on her way to basic training for the US Army. She came back. And thus, began our adventures with military life. She would go away for awhile, I’d be sad. She came back, I was happy again. Now she is retired, lives about 20 mins from me, and has the full time job of being Granny to my daughter, Baby Girl. Not every man or woman that took a trip for the military made it back. Not every person waiting for them to come back got to see them again. And that’s why there is a Memorial Day; to remember those that didn’t come back.
Stories are moments in time that impacted a person, wrapped in the events of how the impact happened. The passing of a person in combat very much qualifies as that. But don’t forget that the rest of their has similar moments. The marriage proposal. The birthdays. The times they brought joy in a way that will never be forgotten. How do you “thank a person for their service” when they are not here? Honor their memory; tell their stories. They were ordinary people who made an extraordinary impact. Tell their stories on purpose.