How do we remember the family members lost in service to our country on Memorial Day?
This is a question Americans work through every year, and it touches not just veterans, but all Americans.
The modern tradition of Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer is well-cemented into American culture. Many mark the three-day weekend with barbeques, camping and visits to memorials or cemeteries to honor those we have loved and lost too soon. But is this enough? This question haunts many, especially those who have served and lost a brother or sister in arms. Those survivors often ask themselves, “Why did I come home, and they didn’t?”
And for those who did not serve, the weight of knowing the price others have paid for what they enjoy every day can be heavy at times as well.
But what if Memorial Day is not about paying the ultimate price, but all about family? What if it is about a barbeque? What if it is about camping? What if it’s really about that they didn’t come home so that we could?
Home, as we’ve all heard, is a place where we lay our heads down at night. But home is not just a building, it’s also a feeling. A feeling of peace, a feeling of security, a feeling of love. And what grows in a home is a strong family.
Do you believe a single family can change the world? I do and, as I grow as a dad every day, I learn more and more that what we do and don’t do as a dad matters. And as I watch my family grow each year, I deepen the understanding that on Memorial Day one of the best ways to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for our country is to be a better dad. I remind myself that some weren’t able to come home to finish what they started as a parent; I remind myself that I did, and it’s up to me to create a legacy of family that is worthy of the gift they gave me.
The love a child feels from his dad and the love his dad feels is a special bond. When I think about the kids who never get to feel that love again, it strengthens my determination to be a better father.
To think about the generations of fatherless homes because not all dads came back: this is the cost of war, the paying of the ultimate price.
For the dads who did come home and for those fathers who didn’t serve, we get to feel that love from our family and it is on us to honor that love a kid somewhere in America no longer gets to feel.
What I have come to learn is that connecting with family, strengthening bonds, and adding some adventure to our children’s lives is how we raise good healthy adults who do have the courage to change the world and honor that gift.
Memorial Day is centered around remembering, but this year what if it was about more: more connection, more memories, more adventure and more family.
So maybe a Memorial Day barbeque is a special gathering not just for food but remembering those who helped make the moment possible in their own family tree. Maybe camping outdoors is a chance for you as a father to slow down from life, enjoy the view of what you have created and help your kids explore this big place we call Earth and life.
As you wrestle with the feelings I mentioned at the beginning, anchor yourself within family, anchor yourself with who you have become because of that loss, and anchor yourself in the legacy that is your family.
The best way to honor those who didn’t come home is to create a life worthy of the sacrifice and gift they gave us — the gift of feeling the love of your kids and your kids feeling the love of a father.
What can you do this Memorial Day to honor this gift?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ben Killoy is a U.S. Marine veteran, husband and stay-at-home father to three kids. He is a speaker, coach and podcaster.
He launched his podcast, Military Veteran Dad, in 2019. As a speaker and coach, he focuses on helping high-performing men with thriving business lives and out-of-balance family lives to get excited about pulling into their driveaway at home again.