Do you know the face of Memorial Day? Have you ever seen dignity clothed in the black of grief? Have you ever seen pride and friendship and camaraderie sprinkled with the tears of uniformed men and women?

The flag is held by two young men in the blues of the honor guard, as the rest of the honor guard readies their weapons to fire three shots into the air. As Taps is played the flag is folded slowly and deliberately. With the click of their shoes, the young airman turns and slowly marches toward the Squadron Commander. The commander, solemn and with tears in his eyes, slowly takes the flag first placing his hand on the hand of the Guard before pulling it to his chest and accepting a salute.

He turns slowly, deliberately and walks toward the beautiful woman in black with a small girl by her side. He slides his hand along the edge of the folded flag and turns it with the longest edge facing out. She puts her hand on top of his, pauses, and then pulls the flag the flag to her self as the Uniformed man leans over and softly whispers words of consolation.

Have you ever seen the face of Memorial Day?

Not just the tear stained face or the prostrate figure lying by a gravestone, but the face of those who struggle to find their feet as they stuggle on dealing with the losses faced in peacetime, in training, and in combat.

Have you seen the face of the two month old child whose father will never hear “Dad” because he is dead?

I have witnessed the dignity, vulnerable honesty, and immense courage of a fellow Air Force Wife as she spoke of the life and love she shared with her fallen Airman. She spoke of the strength and breadth of their love and of their friends and family and his unit. She spoke, like we all do, in poetic terms as much as in the stark reality that faces us all. She needs help in sharing the memories and character of her husband with their children as they grow up without their father.

She joins a band of women and men draped in grief: She is now, and will always be, a Gold Star Spouse.

I have stood next to a Gold Star Spouse as a man with the stars of a General asked all Gold Star family members to stand and be acknowledged. I felt the shudder deep within her soul. I placed my hand on her shoulder, feeling acutely that I do not know her pain, her grief, or her hope, and never want to.

This designation is not one that is ever welcomed at its outset with open arms. It is to be avoided. But, it tells all of us within the military family community that she, and her children, have suffered a loss that is beyond words.

Have you ever seen the face of Memorial Day?

This life has real dangers. Week by week I come to understand more of what it means to be a military family; to understand the cost of service, and its gifts.

Have you ever stared into the eyes of someone who knows great loss and yet knows also the choice of service and the day to day grind of training and deployment and reconciles all with a humble dignity?

This strength and courage and resilience is not to be taken lightly; indeed, these are the qualities we should seek to foster in ourselves and each other. Not because we ever want to face the loss of our servicemembers, but because these are the qualities that help us thrive in all circumstances. Foster relationships with those around you, whatever stage of life you may be at. Tell those you care about that you love them. Make plans and prepare for the worst.

Hold your people close today and every day.

Memorial Day gold star military family

If you or a love one is struggling this Memorial Day, reach out to TAPS – Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors founded by Gold Star Family Members to support each other.

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