“Tell my wife and children I love them.”
Those are the last words my husband spoke to the medic caring for him before he lost consciousness. I know this because that medic took the time and summoned the strength to write and tell me so. I recently found the letter I’d read quickly a couple years ago and buried deep in my home office. Its words cut me so deeply I was not able to face them then. But today, though the pain still resides within me, I am stronger. Sort of.
It was Memorial Day weekend 10 years ago that I drove to Fort Drum and kissed my husband goodbye. I had no idea it would be our last kiss. Our last goodbye. Ten days from then, Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez brutally ripped Lou and Captain Phillip Esposito from this life. Martinez is a free man now, thanks to the military’s botched judicial system and the hubris of so many involved in our case. It is our families, instead, who have been punished with unnecessary pain. But I digress, for that injustice is not the focus of this writing.
Memorial Day is again upon us.
My youngest son came home from school today, near tears as he related the comment of some classmates: “Who cares about Memorial Day, anyway,” they said.
It hurts to hear that and it hurts even more to see the pain etched on my son’s face. To hear it weighing his soul down as he tells me this. And yet, I can’t fault the kids for saying it. They’re simply repeating the attitude they have been exposed to. Maybe my children would have felt that way, had my husband not stepped up to serve. I hope not. But – maybe.
So, to all parents who may not have that tie to the military; Please, take a moment to reflect upon it. Please take the time to teach your children about the true meaning of this day. Of the people like my husband – and thousands of other husbands and wives, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, best friends – who died in service to this country. Supporting the massive force that sacrifices so much so the rest of us do not have to.
I used to ask, “Why him? Why our family? Why us?” And it took me years to realize – Why not us? If not us, than who? What becomes of this nation, if no one will stand to defend it? I am profoundly grateful to my husband and all who laid down their lives in service to our country. I will mourn Lou for the rest of my life. But I will live that life surrounded by the blessings in it. I will honor him and all the fallen by remembering them. By living a full life they so wanted those they loved to live. I will give back to those who served, who mourn their fallen friends and loved ones. And I will enjoy the three-day weekend this “holiday” allows. I hope you do, too. But somewhere in your weekend, please pause a moment to remember our families and the ones we’ve lost. Turn to your family and tell them you love them, because you can.