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Remember, don’t forget on Memorial Day

One of the weekends I look forward to the most every year is fast approaching and it fills me with excitement constantly. Memorial Day Weekend! It signifies the unofficial start to summer and grilling season, a three day weekend great for home improvement projects, quick trips to the lake, or that dreaded cleaning out the garage. But for me it conjures up feelings of family and friends and sharing things we love together.

100MH_2I grew up in a blue collar house hold with a father who raced cars at a local track in Tucson. Every Memorial Day Sunday we would turn on the T.V. or the radio. But it wasn’t for what most people would consider a normal reason. No, for us it was more than that, it was to experience something special. It was to partake in The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, The Indianapolis 500! My mom is from South Bend, Indiana, so she has a very special place in her heart for the state, and in 1977, pregnant with me, my parents went to see the race in person. So by proxy, I have also attended the race, though I don’t remember much. From that day on it became almost a ritual for my dad and I to enjoy it together every year, whether it be on the couch with a coke, or out in the garage turning wrenches on a project, or mowing the lawn. We watched the Greats pilot those machines for 500 miles around hallowed grounds to have their names etched in history forever. That is a memory I have and hold true to my heart. It fills me with pride, love and gratefulness.

But for many years, I did not understand the importance of Memorial Day.   All I knew is that school was almost, if not over that weekend, there was a race coming up and we were going to have burgers and dogs on the grill. As a kid, life was fantastic. I wasn’t until many years later that I figured out that Memorial IMG_1775Day was just that, a day for memorializing.   It was a special day for us to reflect, to give thanks, and to honor those who have paid the ultimate price. The reason we get to grill our steaks and drink our beer, the reason we race our cars, cheer on our baseball teams, or swim with abandon is because there is a group of individuals who have allowed us to do so.

I personally have family and close friends who are currently serving, and who have served in the past. They are in all branches of the military. I have been so fortunate that they have all returned safe and continue to stay that way. But I, along with so many of you out there, am guilty. I’m guilt of taking their service and sacrifice for granted, for not realizing that they give so much, and they do it at their free will. I take for granted that I do get to pick out that amazing piece of meat at the store to gorge myself on, that I can have in excess whatever beverages that I want, and I can do whatever I want, and no one can tell me otherwise. And I forget. I forget those who fought in foreign wars, I forget about those who lost their lives so selflessly to ensure that I have those rights. I forget. I don’t do it intentionally and I have no malice behind my thoughtlessness. I think maybe I forget because of the pace of life. Or maybe it’s because I wasn’t shown the importance of our military and their sacrifices growing up because we weren’t in a time of war.   Or maybe it’s because growing up, I never knew anyone who had not come home because they sacrificed their life in defense of mine. I’ll never know why I forget.

The most important lesson for us all this Memorial Day weekend is not the great specials at the store, or the sales on all the junk we consume in our daily lives. It’s not about the best camping spot or being first on the lake for those sweet wake boarding sessions. The most important thing for us to do is to remember. IMG_1780Remember all the young, brave men and women who stood up and said that they would gladly accept whatever fate had in store for them so that their neighbors, friends, family and perfect strangers could enjoy their lives without threat or oppression.

So as I sit here watching America’s favorite pastime this evening, the Florida Marlins and my Arizona Diamondbacks, it reminds me of traditions that runs strong in our country. Let’s make sure that we continue to keep those traditions and all that they stand for. But let’s continue to keep the important traditions at the forefront, like the tradition of remembering.

If you have ones close to you who served, be sure to thank them. Show them your love, buy them a beer, give them a hand shake and a smile. But make sure that you also let them know that you remember. You remember those friends they lost, those people who we have never met, those who have laid the ground work for America. As you watch your baseball or race, as you swim in your pool with your family, as you enjoy your weekend sitting on your porch, take a second. Remember, don’t forget.

Written by: Travis Jones