On Memorial Day we honor those who fought to protect our freedom. We asked our veterans, here at United Way of Broward County, what Memorial Day means to them.
“When I think of Memorial this image is what I see in my mind. Every Memorial Day I am both sad and grateful. Sad for the families and loved ones of the fallen who have suffered tremendous grief. Grateful to the fallen who made the ultimate sacrifice.” – Sybil Allison, Army
“Memorial Day for me often represented a time best spent with family, enjoying the freedoms afforded to us in this country—barbecues and time at the beach. That all changed for me when I joined the Marine Corps and would go on to spend 3 of my 5 Memorial Days away from my family— Boot Camp, 26th MEU and Iraq. As a Marine you learn about the sacrifice of Marine Corps Legends via stories of heroic actions and posthumous awards that rival the tallest of tales. Fortunately, I still have the opportunity to celebrate this weekend with my loved ones and I owe that to those who came before me and those still in the fight. For me now, I take a few moments on Memorial Day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, to recognize and mourn with the families who lost so much, and to celebrate those men and women that were brave enough to put themselves in harms way for the sake of others.” – Ryan Bancroft, Marine Corps
“Memorial Day to me is a time to remember our fallen service members who fought for the rights and freedoms we have in America today. It is especially special to me, because during my time in service I served as a Ceremonial Guardsman at Arlington in Cemetery in Washington D.C. where I participated in the full honor wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and an observance ceremony every Memorial Day between 2006 and 2008.” – Lillian Bentley, Navy
As I get older the meaning of this day has changed for me. As a teen it was about a long weekend on Lake Erie, friends, grilling and the beginning of summer. After 22 years in the Coast Guard that saw then end of the Cold War, the first Gulf War, the Terror Attacks of 9-11 and another Gulf War – it was more meaningful, more thoughtful to me. It went beyond knowing why this day was on the calendar, I knew had a personal connection with people that were a part of why this day is on the calendar. Now that I have been retired from the Coast Guard for nearly 10 years, the meaning behind Memorial Day had changed for me again. As time passes, this day becomes one of the most difficult days of recognition on the calendar for me. It is a lonely day spent recalling the of memories, both good and bad, of fellow service members and veterans I have known over the years. Most years I will attend at least one Memorial Day service and listen to the encouraging words of others as they speak fondly of those who have fallen from our ranks. As the programs conclude there is often a lone bagpiper playing a somber tune that is both haunting and beautiful in equal measure; it is enough to lull you into a trance where you can almost touch your memories as they play in your mind. Then, just as you begin to find comfort in those images, shots ring out as the honor guard fires…again….again….three times in honor of the fallen. With each round the images in your mind shatter a bit more and the pieces fall. As the sweet melody of Taps begins to play in the distance, you picture each military funeral you have attended. You shed a silent tear, some years you may even sob depending on who fell most recently. You realize you are still broken in ways you never imagined. Memorial Day is painful, yet healing in ways that I cannot fully describe. I evokes memories that I sometimes wish were forgotten, but I am glad they aren’t. It is sad knowing you have friends at Arlington, the South Florida National Cemetery, and others; but it is heartening to know that you knew people of such character. Each Memorial Day there are a few less shipmates left, the most recent passed just last month. Memorial Day is a painful but necessary reminder that there are those among us who served and never came home, and equally important, a reminder that not everyone who returned from their service made it home. Memorial Day isn’t a holiday or a celebration, it is a day set aside to remember those who are no longer with us. I miss my friends who have fallen from the ranks and I intend to honor them with my own silent tribute this Memorial Day.” – Dave Conley, Coast Guard
“Memorial Day is the day we honor and remember the women and men of our military who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.” – Chelsea Markmann, Marine Corps