When I younger, I didn't think much about what it meant to be an American. I understood that there were privileges and freedoms that I had by virtue of being born an American, but I never really gave it much thought. That all changed on September 11, 2001, when the idea of being an American came under attack and it awoke the patriot in all of us.
Even though I understood the implications of that day, that our military would go into combat, it still wasn't personal. Aside from my cousin who met and married a GI that was stationed in Korea, I didn't really have a personal connection to the military. Then I met Mike in 2005 and learned a lot more about the military and the mission of the Coast Guard. And then in 2008, my identity became permanently redefined when I became a military wife. There were the usual life changes as a military wife, like navigating the treacherous water of Tricare (military health insurance, that can be a nightmare sometimes) and PCS-ing (Permanent Change of Station, also referred to as rotating or transferring).
But, becoming a military wife really makes you understand the critical role of our Armed Forces throughout history. I developed a deeper respect for all branches of our military because I understood, first hand, their ongoing role in defending our country and protecting our freedom. Federal holidays became more than just extra days off. The first of three federal holidays that took new meaning is today: Memorial Day (the other two being Independence Day and Veteran's Day). Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor the men and women of our Armed Forces who died while serving our country.
There are many tributes performed to observe the day, but one I find particularly beautiful is the flying of flags at half staff. On this day, the U.S. flag is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position until noon. The flag is then raised to full height from noon to sundown. This unique tradition honors the lives lost for the morning, and living veterans for the rest of the day.
In 2000, President Clinton signed the “National Moment of Remembrance Act," which designates 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day each year as the National Moment of Remembrance. Many radio stations and television programs will play "Taps" at that time. Whatever your plans are for today, I encourage you to take that moment to pause, in an act of national unity, to honor the men and women of the United States who died in the pursuit of freedom and peace.