Remembering Our Heroes

Posted on Wednesday, Jul 06, 2016

Memorial Day is usually marked as the unofficial kickoff to summer: a three-day weekend to relax, grill some good ole’ BBQ, and enjoy the warm weather. The reason behind this holiday has somehow been blurred with commerical signs of “big sale this weekend” or “beach getaway and what to do.” Spending Memorial Day weekend in Washington, D.C. was a life-changing experience for me. As a student with no military ties, it was an honor to have witnessed an unbreakable bond between fallen soldiers and their families.

Photo: Memorial Day Flowers Foundation

In the evening, we attended the National Memorial Day Concert at the Capitol where my peers and I got to hear a mother speak about her 19 year-old son who she lost in battle. He wanted to go to school in California, and he had dreams of one day been an actor. Reading the names off the headstones at Arlington Cemetery and listening to the stories of fallen heroes at the Capitol concert made me realize that Memorial Day wasn’t just a day of remembrance, but also a day to recognize the sacrifices of these families. For them Memorial Day is everyday. 

On Monday, Memorial Day, my peers and I got to hear President Obama deliver his National Observance speech at the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery. It was an incredible honor to witness our nation’s leader honor our fallen soldiers and their families. 

Next year, as many of us enjoy a day off school or work, I hope we take a moment to honor the fallen and to pray for their families. As Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said, "Let’s not remember how they died, but how they lived. Let’s honor them by continuing to instill the values they fought for in our everyday practices".

So if you happen to be around Washington, DC next year, consider volunteering for Memorial Day Flowers or going to any of the related activities. It is a humbling experience that  you won’t regret.

Dianey Leal
Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration 
Washington, D.C.