Stars and Stripes and broken hearts

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Memorial Day isn't all about barbecues or three day weekends.  It is, first and foremost, a day of commemoration  for precious lives lost to protect our freedoms.

It is a day when mothers and fathers remember their children, before they were another statistic in a body count report.  Birthdays and soccer practice, proms and football games, Christmas mornings and Thanksgiving gatherings, diaper changes, sloppy open mouthed baby kisses:  it's all there, bittersweet memories rolling on an endless loop in a grieving parent's mind.  There is no more exquisite pain than the open, aching arms of a devastated mother longing to hold her child one last time.

It is a day of solemn remembrance for those men and women who have suffered unspeakable horrors, who have been dismembered and disabled, and who have died horrible deaths, so that our freedom may be preserved.  It is about families who have nothing left of sons and daughters but memories and photo albums.

So before you crack your first beer, or cut into your steak, stop first.  Ponder for a moment what it must be like to attend the closed casket funeral of your son or daughter.  Feel that pain for a moment.  Internalize it.  Let it wash over you.  Then put your beer down and go hug your kids.  Hold them tight and smell their hair.  Listen to them laugh.  Because this is a day not only of remembrance, but of appreciation  for the freedoms we hold dear, and for the millions of suddenly childless parents  who have given so much.

It's okay to enjoy your day, because they sacrificed for that, too.  Just take a moment of silence to thank those who have made days like this possible.