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Memorial Day, A Call to Remember

Memorial Day statues

Senior Airman Bradley Smith was killed in action on Jan. 3, 2010, supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Smith was a joint terminal attack controller assigned to the 10th Air Support Operations, Fort Riley, Kansas. In his hometown of Troy, Ill., this roadside memorial honors him. At the time of his death, Smith was married with a newborn daughter. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christine Spargur)

Memorial Day statues

The Glen Carbon, Ill., Veterans Monument honors three hometown heroes who died in World War II – Staff Sgt. William Giza, Pfc. Leonard Sedlacek, and Sgt. William Landa. All three were killed in action in 1945. Giza was 27 years old and Landa was 31 years old. Sedlacek had celebrated his 29th birthday three days prior to his death. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christine Spargur)

Memorial Day statues

The Glen Carbon, Ill., Veterans Monument honors three hometown heroes who died in World War II – Staff Sgt. William Giza, Pfc. Leonard Sedlacek, and Sgt. William Landa. All three were killed in action in 1945. Giza was 27 years old and Landa was 31 years old. Sedlacek had celebrated his 29th birthday three days prior to his death. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christine Spargur)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- A husband wonders what his wife would think about their tiny, 4-pound daughter growing to nearly 6 feet tall and out running the boys on her high school track team.

A teenager wonders if his dad would have been the kind of father to wear black socks with sandals to the neighborhood pool party.

A mother wonders if her son had kids would her grandchildren have his deep blue eyes.

A wife wonders about the dreams she shared with her husband to retire and move to Costa Rica. It’s been 19 years, but she can still picture the island cottage he drew on a napkin during their last anniversary dinner.

For family and friends of service members killed in action, Memorial Day is a lifetime of heartache. It’s a constant whirring of what ifs.

This year Memorial Day will be different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To follow CDC social distancing guidelines and to limit large gatherings, many cities have cancelled their traditional Memorial Day ceremonies and parades.

During this pandemic, the nation has rallied around essential workers. There are countless commercials, news stories, viral social media posts, and videos from across the country of citizens sharing their appreciation for nurses, doctors, store clerks, couriers, food producers, truck drivers, and emergency responders.

People have stepped outside to ring bells, cheer, and sing for them. Dozens of restaurants have catered meals for healthcare workers. Locally, Louie, the St. Louis Blues’ mascot, and the St. Louis Cardinals’ Fredbird have joined forces to do a nightly caravan driving around area hospitals and grocery stores waving thank you banners.

The outpouring of support for these essential workers is much deserved and well earned.

I wonder, if the nation can come together to thank these essential workers, can we also unite to show our gratitude to the families of our fallen servicemembers who made the ultimate sacrifice and paid the greatest price for our nation’s freedom?

Can we rise to the challenge of honoring our fallen heroes and supporting their families left behind with an equal measure of passion and fanfare?

Without the solemn ceremonies that traditionally mark the holiday, it is especially important to remember those who have died in service to our country.

We must not forget them. And, we must never forget their families.