a tombstone honoring the women and men we lost serving in the U.S. Military

Originally called Decorations Day started in 1866 where families put flowers on the graves of those lost in the Civil War, both Union and Confederate. That tradition continued for years and after World War I the country began honoring all service members killed in all wars.

In 1971 May 31st became Memorial Day, which is now celebrated the final Weekend in May.

Its purpose: to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.

Growing up in a small town in northern New Jersey we always celebrated Memorial Day with a parade. My dad marched as a member of the American Legion and my brothers and I as little league players or cub scouts.

At the conclusion of the parade there was a wreath laying ceremony at Memorial Field. We also had a field named Addice Park in our town. I didn’t understand the ceremony or park name back then.

I do now. Addice Park is named in honor of Frank Addice, a Navy Corpsman killed in action in Vietnam at the age of 19. He is remembered by the naming of the field and his name is on “The Wall”. I had to go looking for that info.

Today I am taking the time to remember those I knew who have given the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country.

I have had the privilege of serving in the Marine Corps for 23 years after I graduated from the Naval Academy. Which gave me the opportunity to meet and serve with great Americans. At the Naval Academy there is a room in the main dormitory Bancroft Hall named Memorial Hall. The room is dedicated to honor all graduates lost while serving on active duty.

From my class of just over 960 graduates, we lost 13 classmates while they served on active duty. Some combat losses and many operational losses from training mishaps.

1st Lt David Nairn was killed in the Beirut Bombing in Lebanon, Sept 23, 1983. The start of the War on Terror. This Memorial Day there is a run in his name in Quantico, VA. Keeping his memory alive.

On September 11th, 2001 we lost 2 classmates, Captain Bob Dolan USN at the Pentagon and Michael McGinty attending a meeting in the World Trade Center.

The Naval Academy lost 14 alumni that day.

From 2001 to 2004 while a faculty member at the United States Naval Academy I had the privilege to get to know many future officers. Two that I had interacted with on a regular basis lost their lives fighting the War on Terror.

1st Lt Travis Manion, a Marine officer from the class of 2004 and 2nd Lt.  J.P. Blecksmith class of 2003. Both varsity athletes, Travis a wrestler and J.P. a football player. Both have foundations in their name.

The closest loss I experienced was on 23 August 1996 when an EA-6B aircraft from VMAQ-1 on a training mission in Yuma AZ crashed killing all four crew members. One of those crew members was Major Jack Bacheller, the Executive Officer. We had spent several years together as Lieutenants and Captains, attended the Naval Postgraduate School together, and were counterparts in sister squadrons. Our wives were friends and we lived a block away from each other on base at Cherry Point, NC.

All four aircrew are memorialized with a monument at Cherry Point, NC.

Sometimes it is hard to understand a loss until you are really close to it.

That’s why we have Memorial Day – to remember. In a country with over 230 million citizens and only 2 million active-duty members at one time, a small percentage of the populace has direct contact with the military and far less, direct contact with military families who lost a member. The citizenry is not close to the loss.

Memorial Day does not have to be one day out of the year. As the year goes on take a little time to understand the losses. Pass on the true meaning of Memorial Day and learn something about the person and family behind the name on that memorial in your home park, that road or bridge you drive over every day.

Make every day a Memorial Day – Take Time to Remember.