Memorial Day vs. Veterans Day

Author: Rachael Hill

Rachel Hill holding American FlagBefore my husband died, Memorial Day was just another 3 day weekend that we got to celebrate his birthday (May 29th) with a fun adventure.  I never really thought about the importance of it and just enjoyed our time together.  Since his death however, Memorial Day has taken on a whole new meaning.

I am proud to be an Air Force veteran and am proud of the service I gave to our country. I am the first to stand with my chest held high when veterans are recognized at sporting events, school assemblies, or any other arena.  That is what Veteran's Day is for…to celebrate those who have served in our nation's military. Memorial Day on the other hand, is not about me and the others that have served, but rather about those who died along the way. The men and women who never made it home to their families, whether it be during times of war, deployments, a day at work, or even a drive to the store.

Let me preface what I'm about to say with the statement that I find Facebook to be a blessing and a curse.  It is a blessing in that it has given me the opportunity to stay in contact with so many amazing friends and family that I never would have gotten the chance to otherwise. On the other hand, it also has a tendency to magnify some of the struggles and difficulties this grief journey has put me through, and is a reminder that there will always be those who just don't understand some of the things we've been through.

I will never forget my first Memorial Day without Jeff. We were in Washington, D.C., to see his headstone for the first time and to celebrate his birthday at his grave site. As I was preparing to head to the cemetery that morning I took a peek at Facebook and saw that a friend had posted a slideshow with pictures of her husband's military service.  The tagline read, "A Memorial Day tribute to my husband." I wanted to scream and tell her, "Don't memorialize your husband when he's still alive!" But, I couldn't do that, so I took a deep breath and reminded myself that she just didn't understand…and why would she? I have also seen so many people post on Memorial Day about how proud they are of their veterans, whatever relationship they may be. I am proud of them too and so very thankful for all of their service, but again, Memorial Day is not for them. It is for the ones who gave their lives protecting what they loved - this country and all it stands for.

The past few weeks have been a difficult time for the Air Force as there have been multiple plane crashes in a short amount of time. This truly hits home for me as my husband also died in a plane crash, and in situations like this all of those memories and feelings tend to come rushing back. I have had numerous Facebook friends post about how thankful they are that it wasn't their loved ones that perished. Well, of course they are! However as they revel in their thankfulness, there is another family who is experiencing the hurt, devastation, and unimaginable loss that I felt almost 3 years ago. Once again, I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that when they post these things, they are not saying it to be hurtful and to gloat that it wasn't them, they just simply don't understand…and I truly hope that they never do!

So this Memorial Day, while you are at your celebration BBQ, take a moment to remember those who went before us. Those whose lives were cut far too short, and those who were never given the opportunity to make it home for another day with their loved ones. Give a family member or a friend of the fallen a hug, for we also sacrifice, being left to carry on without the physical presence of these amazing military men and women.  Veteran's Day is to say thank you to those who have served, but this is what Memorial Day is about. Remembering and never forgetting our fallen military heroes.