Memorial Day, for most Americans, is the benchmark holiday tagged as the start of long summer days, BBQs and sipping our favorite chilled drinks. Even me, who grew up surrounded by military life, can so easily take this day for granted and forget its purpose – a time to remember and honor our military heroes who gave their lives for the sake of our freedom.
Let me tell you about my hero – my dad. He was a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force. He flew F-16s, F-4s, and A-10s. He was as strong as Superman in the eyes of my brothers and me. He flew over 40 missions in Vietnam and many others thereafter, logging well over 1,000 flight hours on the F-16.
In October 1987, my dad’s F-16 crashed in northern Germany and he died in a military hospital a couple days later, on the 19th. He was 40 years old. My mother, was left a grieving widow with three young children (I was 6, my brothers, 8 and 10) to raise and nowhere to go. She would need to move us from Germany to later settle in a small military town in northern Florida.
To this day, almost 30 years later, my dad’s siblings and longtime friends still boast with enthusiasm to have known him, and share their stories of him. My grandfather would glow with pride when I would sit with him in his big chair, as he would tell me stories of his eldest son growing up, winning a state football championship, attending the Air Force Academy, and becoming a fighter pilot.
Even though I was young, I vividly remember the Military Police and Commanding Officer coming to inform my mom of the accident, and take her to the hospital to say good-bye. I remember the fire of the 21 gun salute at his funeral, surrounded by thousands of mourners, piercing my ears and my broken heart. I was proud of my father: he was my hero, my daddy, but, I would never see him again. It was a reality that took a long time to accept, to heal.
Today, his legacy lives on. Both of my big brothers became Marine fighter pilots and serve honorably. Between the two of them, they have deployed 11 times. While fighting, they missed the birth of a first born, years of their children’s early lives and valuable time with their spouses. They have lost many fellow soldiers and friends through the years and express their own gratitude for the humble sacrifice of their fellow Marines. My big brothers never complain, they only sternly say, “This is why I joined. This is what we train for – to give of ourselves, for God, Corps, Country.” And this is mirrored by so many of our soldiers and their families.
Take a moment this Memorial Day, this week, to lift our soldiers up in prayer to our Heavenly Father. Pray for the families whose sacrifices are often sadly forgotten. As time goes on, I am still without a father, my mom without her husband, my kids will never get to meet their grandfather. This is not only my story, but the story of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who lost a parent, child, sibling, or friend.
Say thank you to soldiers and their spouses when you see them. Serve them as they have served you. Ask to pray for them. Remind them who they are fighting (fought) for, and that they are not forgotten. Our military families need our prayers and our gratitude. Honor them.
Please join me in my prayer for them:
‘If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Psalm 91:9-12
This post is dedicated to LT. Col. Richard S. Allain, Jr, USAF who gave his life to serve his country. To my mother, Victoria Allain, who I will forever be grateful for sacrifice as a military spouse and taking on the burden of loss with so much love and grace.