I am a Marine Widow and a Navy wife and I have a confession to make.
I grew up in a small New England town. There were Memorial Day parades and
celebrations but other than my Great Uncles, a distant Cousin and my Paternal
Grandfather who was gone when I was young, Not many of my family were in the
service. I don't think I understood the true meaning of Memorial Day until I moved
to California after 2001.
Living in Southern California you are surrounded by a large number of military
bases and activities and I began to understand the true reverence of this day.
Then in 2005 I married a Marine and it was so apparent the concepts I had missed
out on. No one is at fault for this; life just changes when you marry or are related to
the Military or have a Veteran in your life. We paid our respects on this day and
often hung out with friends.
Then came 2012....
My husband was killed by an IED while serving overseas. My world was shattered. I
was overcome with grief, confusion and anger.
Then a month later it was Memorial Day. I was invited to the local Veterans
Cemetery (where he is now buried). I went and was honored to have the speaking
Generals wife sit and hold my hand. I was however simply confused, overwhelmed
and exhausted. There were so many people and while I was so appreciative of their
attendance at this event I found myself wondering why I didn't feel this military
support from the public while my husband was alive. I went home knowing I very
obviously had some things to work through.
Enter 2014. People started posting reminders of what this day off from work was
actually about. I shared a few hoping to help educate people. However as people
share their photos of beach days and barbecues I just found myself angry and logged
out. My closest friend who was a Veteran and Wounded Warrior kept my feelings in
check and saved me from imploding. He was always good at that and his influence
changed my life.
Enter 2015. I decided very purposely to breathe. This was the worst year of all.
Now it was not just my husband. The close friend I spoke of above was also in
heaven due to complications from his injuries received in war. I was beyond lost. I
was angry and I needed this day to be over so the pain would stop. I posted
reminders about what the day was about and asked my friends to have a moment of
silence for the fallen. Then I cried like I had not in some time.
Enter 2016. Life is so very different. J and D are both gone and my heart will always
have a hole where they should be. I have however remarried. I was lucky enough to
meet an amazing man who is Military himself and he supports me in my work with
the EOD Warrior Foundation and visits the cemetery with me to visit J. I know I am
blessed by this. The Internet reminders of what the day is for have started and I
have shared a few. But this year I find myself truly wanting to educate the masses
on Memorial Day. Yes you can get a great price on a grill and have a day off from
work and hit the beach but there are men and women who sacrificed all to give you
I look back to the greatest generation. They fought with honor, lost more service
members than any other war and came home heroes. These men and women still
take part in all service remembrance activities along side their families.
Why are we not standing with them in mass? Many do but many do not. How do we
teach our generation and our children how important this day is?
It is simple. Stand up and speak. Tell your family, friends and children why they
have this day off and take a moment of silence for all those that gave you the right to
have a celebration free of fear.
In 2012 a close friend from high school posted a photo of her very young daughter
painting an American flag that had our names on it. She discussed how she is too
young to understand now. But as she grows up she will be taught what Memorial
Day means. I love that picture and my friend. It gives me hope. Hope that we can
raise the next great generation that serves with pride and gives reverence to those
who serve and fall.
This Memorial Day I will be home in reverence. The cemetery is just too crowded
for me. I will remember. I will tell stories and I will honestly cry.
Can I ask this? Have your party, beach day or barbecue but could you take 5
minutes to talk about what Memorial Day means. Teach your children, educate
other family members or friends because that is all the families of the fallen desire.
To have their loved ones remembered on the day that was meant for them.
In Remembrance on Memorial Day.
~~Heather Fankhauser Evans
Below I share the video of Joseph’s Final Homecoming to Dover AFB. While this was
the hardest day I have ever endured, I can also stand back now and look at the
Tradition and Reverence in the way we treat our Fallen Service Members. This
video was from a day of sadness that I now see also contains beauty and respect.