Military Connection: How to Celebrate Memorial Day 2015

9/11/2012 - Jay Janner/American-Statesman - Kimberly Mitchell weeps at the grave of her husband Chad Mitchell at the Houston National Cemetery in Houston on Tuesday Sept. 11, 2012.   Chad Mitchell, an Iraq War veteran, died of an accidental overdose in 2010.

Today is Memorial Day.

At the grocery store recently, I was in the check-out line and saw two Coca-Cola bottles, the ones that have people’s first names on them. I happened to see the names “Chad” and Mitchell” next to each other. I did a double take, because when I was in the Navy, Chad Mitchell was on my first ship. Chad was one of my best friends, and he is no longer with us.

Operations Specialist Second Class Petty Officer (Surface Warfare & Air Warfare) Chad Mitchell passed away in 2010, the result of complications from medications he was taking for PTSD and a shoulder injury that he sustained while serving in Iraq. I see reminders of Chad, as well as many others, randomly, almost every day. Usually, these reminders prompt happy memories of good times that we shared while serving together. At other times, the reminders bring on the aching feelings of loss.

On Facebook, many of my friends are also Veterans. Many of them are from military families, and I see them randomly post memories of other fallen service members throughout the year.

Today is a day to remember the men and women who died in service to their country. It is a federal holiday, and most Americans have the day off. Many families go away for the long weekend. Many stay in town and attend community events, often held at cemeteries and town civic centers. There are also a lot of smaller gatherings, such as barbeques and parties, with extended family and friends. A lot of people also hit the local mall, auto dealerships, mattress retailer, and other places for extended sales.

But whatever it is that you choose to do, or get stuck doing, please take a few moments to remember and acknowledge the lives sacrificed in service to our country, its military, and our way of life. Say a prayer, reserve a moment of silent reflection, play a song, watch a patriotic movie (or mini-series for those, like me, who love HBO’s “Band of Brothers.”) If you personally knew someone who died while in the military, please take the time to specifically remember them or share a story about them with others .

I will be attending a ceremony at a cemetery in my hometown, with many of my fellow Veterans. But I also plan on remembering Chad and other fallen shipmates, including Commander John Reggelbrugge and sharing stories about them to others that I talk to. By remembering and telling their stories, we will  ensure that their loss is mourned, that their sacrifice is honored, and that they are always remembered.

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Military Connection: How to Celebrate Memorial Day 2015: By Joe Silva