Memorial Day means something different to all of us. For many Americans, it signifies the beginning of summer barbecues, pool parties, and discount sales.
Other people choose to celebrate Memorial Day by honoring all veterans, by thanking everybody for their service, and remembering both the living and those who made the ultimate sacrifice and laid down their lives.
But neither of these is really what Memorial Day was designed for.
With all of these distractions informing the American mindset of Memorial Day, it can be easy to forget the holiday’s real purpose—dutifully honoring U.S. servicemen and women who died in combat.
Do you want to know how my family celebrates Memorial Day? As an Army Green Beret who spent my adult life in the Middle East fighting the war on terror, for me, my wife, and my three boys, Memorial Day is a really big deal. The mindset we approach this day with is one of quiet reverence. Every year, we gather around our flag, and I tell them stories of the 23 brothers that I lost in this war.
Men like Pedro “Papi” Munoz, who was 47 years old when he died.
In early 2001, he was nearing retirement on the Golden Knights parachute team; all he had to do was just finish that last tour and he was done. Instead, he rejoined his beloved Special Forces when the towers fell on that tragic September day. And even in his 40s, Papi could outrun most of the members on his team who were half his age. My boys love it when I tell that part of the story.
In January 2005, on a mission to target a Taliban commander in western Afghanistan, Papi, as always, was the first one through the door. He immediately found himself face to face with the Taliban commander they were after. This guy was hiding behind his own wife, using her body as a shield, with his machine gun resting on her shoulder.
With no regard for his own life, and without a second thought, Papi pushed her aside to spare her, and in the process, both men fatally shot each other and fell. Papi’s team pulled him out of the room and fought with all their might to keep him alive, but that night, he took his last breath, leaving behind his wife, Gisella, and his daughter, Dahlia, to carry on without him.
When I tell that story to my three boys, we remember him and we honor his sacrifice, but we don’t stop there. We ask ourselves poignant questions that demand a mindset of reverence:
What can we learn from the selfless sacrifice of brave people such as Papi? What type of loyalty does it take to go back to being a Green Beret at 47 years old? How much courage is required to be the first in the room every time? And what amazing compassion must it take to give your life for a woman you’ve never even met?
I don’t have a problem with the parties on this day and the discount sales, or even the casual mindset of summer fun, but as a nation, let’s take a few minutes to remember, a few minutes to honor, and most importantly, to recommit ourselves to a mindset of being a better country, a better family, and a better community, worthy of their sacrifice.
That’s what this day means to me. What does it mean to you?
Scott Mann is a former Green Beret who specialized in unconventional, high-impact missions and relationship building. He’s the founder of Rooftop Leadership and appears frequently on TV and many syndicated radio programs. For more information, visit RooftopLeadership.com
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.