Fort Belvoir, Va. (June 5, 2014) - During the Memorial Day holiday last weekend, I took some time to hang out with my dad -- a World War II Navy veteran who's still very much alive and kicking in his late 80s -- for a few hours. Somehow such simple and close-to-home activities are far more relaxing and rewarding for me than creeping down the highway amid traffic jams, standing in endless lines at amusement parks, and listening to all the yelling and cursing other people are doing in reaction to the crowds and chaos.

I've mentioned many times before that, since I started as sports editor for the Fort Belvoir Public Affairs Office back in 2011, I've grown a lot more aware of the significance of military service and the levels of commitment, quality and character required of anyone aiming to wear the uniform.

Indeed, in talking with my dad last weekend I learned that little has changed since his time in the Navy back in the 1940s. Put simply, nobody wanted to leave their Families and go to war in a foreign and dangerous country. But to hear him explain it, you didn't do it because you felt like doing it; you did it because the uniform made you a defender and the oath gave you a responsibility that you were expected to carry out, both by others and yourself.
It was just what a grownup did, he said.

It can't be denied that many look upon Memorial Day as just a day off and a chance to hang out and have fun without much more than a cursory thought sent the military's way. But like Dad's been known to say, many people have no idea of the lives they could be living had our servicemembers not answered the call. When compared to what Russian citizenry went through under Joseph Stalin (who was singly responsibility for the deaths of 20 million people, above and beyond the 20 million Soldiers and civilians who lost their lives during the war) or what European Jews and countless others suffered under the Nazis, we've had it pretty easy.

So perhaps every day ought to be Memorial Day, if only because every day we can freely complain about traffic, gas prices and not getting a pay raise is because of the terrible price paid forward by the men and women who served. They didn't sacrifice their lives for just one summer weekend.

Maybe next Memorial Day I'll skip the burgers and potato salad, sit down in the dirt with an MRE, and try to imagine what it was like for those guys and gals who all gave something, and especially those who gave everything, for my freedom.

Page last updated Thu June 5th, 2014 at 00:00