With Fort Bliss to the West, Joint Base San Antonio to the East and Laughlin Air Force Base in between, the 23rd Congressional District of Texas has a very special relationship with our nation’s military. For Memorial Day, there is an abundance of parades, concerts and commemorative events to honor those who did not return home because they made the ultimate sacrifice — giving their lives to defend our freedoms.
For many people in my district, remembering the fallen doesn’t happen just one day of the year.
For these folks, every day is a reminder of the parent, sibling, child or battle-buddy that traded their life to fulfill an oath to the United States of America. The impact of a life lost too soon does not end for these families once the three-day weekend is over. For them, they must continue on without a loving mother, a father to play catch with, or a brother to have their back. The tens of thousands of rolling gravestones at 135 National Cemeteries are a constant reminder of the souls who have laid down their lives for ours.
During WWII, twelve percent of the United States population served in the Armed Forces. Compare that to modern day, when only seven percent of all living Americans have served in the military at some point during their lives. Many Americans do not have a connection to anyone who has served and one of the unintended consequences is misunderstanding what Memorial Day is really about: honoring the lives of our men and women in uniform, their families and reflecting on the sacrifices they have made to protect our way of life.
On Memorial Day I will be thinking of my friend Mike Spann. Mike was a paramilitary officer in the CIA. He was one of the first to be deployed to Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks on our country on 9/11. When I was helping him prepare for his assignment, I never would have thought a few weeks later he would be the first American killed in combat during our invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. His youngest daughter at the time of Mike’s death was just a baby. Mike never got the chance to see her grow up into the phenomenal woman that she is now, because he put himself in harms way to defend our freedom and protect our way of life.
Now that I’m in Congress, I am committed to honoring the noble work of Mike and the thousands of men and women just like him.
Our troops’ decision to join our Armed Forces has had a direct impact on our daily lives, whether we realize it or not. Let’s celebrate Memorial Day by showing gratitude to our military, but also by reflecting on how we can give back to them and their families. Thank you are simple words that none of us say enough – especially to our sailors, soldiers, pilots and marines who have made the most honorable sacrifice.