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Why Memorial Day Should Be More Than Just a 'Day Off': Reflections from a Fallen Soldier's Wife

"If you want to say thank you, do something to better this nation."

Image source: Getty Images

On Memorial Day, Americans honor those who have shed their blood, sacrificing all in service to our great nation and its people. But too often, we often think of Memorial Day only as another “day off,” without stopping to consider the sacrifice of so many who have laid down their lives for our peace of mind, and the American way of life.

In the past, I’ve done the same thing, looking forward to the Memorial Day weekend as a time to escape responsibility, if only for a short time. But that changed for me two years ago.

On the night of September 9, 2011, when I received a horrifying knock at the door, I knew my world would never be the same. That was when I learned that my husband, Specialist Christopher Horton, an Army sniper, had been killed by small arms fire in Paktya, Afghanistan. Neither of us ever imagined he would never come home to the country he held so dear.

After Chris’s death, I came to realize it was now my responsibility to not only make sure people knew of his sacrifice, but that I also had a grave responsibility to fight for our nation here as well. If he and so many others were willing to give it all, I wanted to do all I could to remember them, and do what I could to preserve the freedom that cost them their blood.

We must be the ones to remember them and what they gave, because those killed in war are left at our mercy to be remembered. They can’t show up at events to be recognized, and they can’t proudly yet humbly wear their valorous medals for all to see. If we don’t speak for them, they will have no voice—because they aren’t here to represent themselves.

Honoring them is not a just a somber moment of silence to recognize and reflect on their sacrifice. We can truly honor them the most by living out full and happy lives. They didn’t give their lives so we can spend our days brooding over the great loss. They gave everything so our way of life could continue, and we can be happy in continuing to reach for the American dream. If you want to say thank you, do something to better this nation. We must preserve it on the home front and fight for it here. We owe it to them.

“The truth is, all might be free if they valued freedom, and defended it as they ought,” said the Founding Father Samuel Adams. This not only goes for those on the battlefield in faraway lands, but for those who serve here on the home front as well. When we stop to truly remember what has been given so we could be what we are today, we will never let freedom and liberty slip our hands.

Each day that goes by, my thoughts never waver from the man who loved this nation enough to  contest the enemy face to face. He and so many others served not because they hated what was in front of them, but because they loved what was behind them much, much more. That is the spirit that I will be honoring on Memorial Day.

Jane Horton is a veterans activist and member of Concerned Veterans for America who devotes her time to Gold and Blue Star families. Contact her via e-mail at jane.horton@concernedveteransforamerica.org.

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