Are You Repaying the Debt to the Fallen?

It’s Memorial Day 2024, which is a solemn day to remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving. Our community knows well that this isn’t a day to celebrate those serving or who have served in the military. Unfortunately, many people mistake Memorial Day as another Veteran’s Day. No. Today is a sacred day to honor those who not only laid down their lives to preserve our freedoms, liberties, and way of life but, in many cases, gave their life to protect those serving beside them. Their sacrifice is a debt we will never be able to repay, but “We, the people,” should still try.
In this episode, I talk about the significance of Memorial Day and ways we can attempt to repay the debt together.

Repaying the Debt to the Fallen

Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, is commemorated on the last Monday in May. It started as a day to remember those killed during the Civil War, but over the course of our nation’s history, it’s become a day to remember those who’ve died in all wars.
The red poppy has become a symbol of Memorial Day, a day to remember the fallen. It comes from “In Flanders Field,” a famous poem by a Canadian surgeon, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. He served as the Allied brigade surgeon for an artillery unit in Flanders, Belgium. He wrote the poem after the funeral of his friend and fellow service member who died in battle. At the funeral, he noticed how quickly red poppies grew around the freshly dug graves and wrote the now-famous poem. I’d want to read it to you in case it’s been a while since you’ve heard it.

“In Flanders Fields”

In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.   We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.   Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.     Many of us have heard this poem before, but did you know another famous poem was written in response to “In Flanders Field?” After reading Lieutenant Colonel McCrae’s poem in the news, University of Georgia professor Moina Michael wrote a poem in response to those who sacrificed their lives on Flanders Field. While “In Flanders Field” is written int he voice of the fallen. “We Shall Keep Faith,” is written in the voice of those taking up their torch. Let me read it to you.

“We Shall Keep Faith”

Oh! You who sleep in “Flanders Fields,” Sleep sweet—to rise anew! We caught the Torch you threw And, holding high, we keep the Faith With All who died. We cherish, too, the poppy red That grows on fields where valor led; It seems to signal to the skies That blood of heroes never dies, But lends a lustre to the red Of the flower that blooms above the dead In Flanders Fields. And now the Torch and Poppy Red We wear in honor of our dead. Fear not that ye have died for naught; We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought In Flanders Fields. Moina was a driving force to have the red poppy made as the national symbol of remembrance of the fallen. Her poem was an acknowledgment that others will remember and carry their torch. To me, Memorial Day is a day to remember. It is a day to ensure that the legacies and memories of the fallen are not forgotten. We must remember their service and their incalculable contributions to protecting our way of life because these are people who will never be able to teach their children to drive, their sons to hunt, or walk their daughters down the aisle. They are people who will never hold their spouses or loved ones again. They are sons and daughters who will never have the chance to get married or pursue their dreams. The list of what is lost is unending and immensely sad, but how can we try to celebrate and honor them instead? They took an oath to us and kept it. How can that ever be repaid? As we all know, nothing we could possibly do would ever equal their sacrifice, but again, we should try.

Ways to Repay the Debt

You could volunteer at a veterans hospital or military family organization, or donate to charities that support military families. To commemorate their bravery, you can fly a flag properly at your home or business. You can also teach the next generation about the incredible courage and patriotism of the fallen and the history of the battles they were lost in. Those are some ideas, but what can we do for the fallen when they’re not here to repay the debt to.

Gold Star Families

That brings me to Gold Star Families. Most of us know what that means, but there was a time when the military and veteran community did not have a name for this very special group. Gold Star Family members are the spouses, children, parents, siblings, and loved ones of the service members who died while serving. They hold high honor in our community. Many of us personally know Gold Star families. They are the spouses of people we served with, or their spouses served alongside our spouses. They are children our children played with. They are friends from high school or childhood. We’ve witnessed a flag placed in their arms “on behalf of a grateful nation.” It is with them we can try to repay the debt—and not just on the last Monday of May. This last part is less of an idea of how to honor and repay the fallen and more of a challenge I’d like to close with.

Debt to the Fallen Challenge

Here it is. I challenge you to use your kindness, discipline, education, experience, and what makes you good at what you do to help Gold Star Family members. If you are an amazing writer, mentor Gold Star Families on college essays. If you are a career coach, help Gold Star Spouses start careers. If you are a superior athlete, teach a Gold Star kid to play baseball. If you are a pilot, teach Gold Star family members what it takes to become a pilot. If you own a lawn care business, mow lawns for Gold Star parents. If you are a handyman, teach or help Gold Star Families with home maintenance. If we each do something in our wheelhouse, we can start snowballing the debt. I know many people who already do this. It’s not something they post on social media or brag about. It’s just something they do as a duty to friends they’ve lost. Now I wanted to make a whole list of ways we can all be more intentional about helping Gold Star Families, and then I realized I didn’t have a good list. I need your help, so I’m adding a second challenge. Please share your ideas for helping families. I had down to become a mentor on Veterati, but if you know of any organizations within different industries like sports, business, and medicine that help military families or Gold Star Family members in particular, that we can volunteer at or support, I would love for you to email them to me a hey at milmo. co or comment when I post this episode on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or X. I will keep adding them all to the show notes as they come in so we have a good list. Thank you for being here for this special day to remember those we’ve lost in service. I know this is a hard day in our community, so please know I’m thinking of you.

Repaying the Debt to the Fallen Resources

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