Remembering My Favorite Veteran This Weekend ~ By Jean Marie Keenan-Johnston

Growing up, many of us remember Memorial Day weekends as one of pool openings, first visits of the summer shore season, and family cookouts.  After all, Memorial Day is the “unofficial” start of summer.  For kids, it’s the last long weekend of the school year before summer vacation starts.  It begins a time of freedom for children…days with more fun outside and less restrictions inside.  Schedules aren’t as strictly followed, and homework is gone until Fall.  Just saying the words “Memorial Day” brought forth an excitement about all the fun times coming in June, July and August.

However growing up the daughter of a former Marine, you learn a certain patriotism at a young age that teaches the real importance of days like Memorial Day.  Memorial Day is no longer just a day off from school or work.  It’s not all about barbecues and fireworks.  When your father served our country, even if you weren’t part of the his life during those years, you learn as a child the importance of appreciating that kind of service.  Family tradition and story-telling include lessons about the correct way to hold a flag and the importance of honoring our country’s fallen heroes with the respect they deserve.  Your appreciation of our country’s servicemen grows to include more than just your father…when you see servicemen standing in a store or on a corner somewhere, you’re reminded of the dedication your father had for this country and you know this person has given the same dedication.

Now I’m married to a former Army captain, and this special man in my life has the same special sense of patriotism my father had.    We’re doing the same thing my parents did, raising our girls to learn the same values my father instilled in my siblings and me.  Right now they’re too young to really discuss losing the fallen men and women who lost their lives ensuring our freedom as Americans, so for now we’re just telling them about what it means to be in the Army or Marines and how special Daddy and PopPop are to have been part of these special groups.  As they get older, we’ll share more and more about what military service means.  And I’m confident that one day they’ll look back with a special respect for their father’s military past just as I look back upon my father’s all these years, even on this first Memorial Day without him with me.

Every Memorial Day my husband and I ask through measures like posts on Facebook that people remember these very important lessons we’ve grown up learning.  This Memorial Day, please remember as you’re entertaining your guests or visiting the pool for the first time this summer just what this holiday is supposed to be about.  Hang a flag in honor of those fallen heroes who for centuries have fought with every ounce of their being to make sure that flag was free to fly all these years we’ve been a free nation.  Spread the word to others too.  And when your children are old enough to understand what military service means, share those values with them as well.  Our nation’s military will thank you for it just as genuinely as you thank them for all they’ve done.