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    Posted March 22, 2014 by
    Lindstrom, Minnesota
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Salute to families

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    On Memorial Day, I will show gratitude to those who risked, and gave, all (part 3 out of 5)

    What does Memorial Day mean to you? Are you aware of the history behind this day of remembrance? In all honesty, I was not -- until my husband became a member of the Minnesota National Guard.

    As I think about the 1,196,127 men and women who have given their lives for this country, I am saddened to realize that I have not truly honored them before. These soldiers died for us, for you and me. Whatever doubts we may have about the wars they were fighting, they sacrificed themselves in the defense of our lives and our rights.

    We must also honor the 1,474,689 soldiers who have been wounded and the millions who have suffered from post-traumatic stress. My gratitude to these people and their families is such that I cannot put it into words.

    Think of those families. Imagine what the spouses, children and parents have gone through. The death of a service member is not just the taking of a single life, but the fragmenting of a home that has been snatched away forever.

    How dare I dismiss this day of remembrance to plan a camping trip?

    I have a childhood memory that deeply embarrasses me. I was at the Sonoma County Fair with my mom and her friend. I got to choose which rides I would go on. I picked one that simply went around in slow circles while I sat in a race car. The ride started to move, and I was supposed to give the man my ticket. Yet, as I came nearer to him, I saw that he had a hook for a hand. I yanked my hand back in fear.

    There is a videotape of this.

    The ride went 'round and 'round, with me timidly putting out my hand and then pulling it back before I reached the hook. This man was a veteran of the Vietnam War (his jacket made that very clear). As I was spending my childhood in la-la land making mud pies and playing with my imaginary friend, men and women were sacrificing themselves for our country. I get it now.

    Today, I asked my 9-year-old if he knew what Memorial Day commemorates -- and am happy to say that he has a stronger grasp than I did of the world and its reality.

    What if my husband becomes one of these dead? The incredible father, the man who has stood by me. How would I cope? Again words fail me.

    The question I ought to ask myself (as should you, if you are able), is, "In what way can I truly honor the people who have placed their lives at risk for our country?" First, I will personally find a way to thank someone who has fought for my freedom. As trite as that may sound, I believe a heartfelt expression of gratitude to be a most wonderful thing.

    I am honored to be connected to the U.S. Armed Forces and to be the wife of a brave, selfless man. While I may not agree with all of the government's choices, I do support the individuals who are putting their lives on the line for our country.

    My vision for Memorial Day is a genuine appreciation for the gift of freedom. Something we would not have if it weren't for the soldiers who placed our lives before theirs.
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