The last Monday in May brings with it a somberness, a weight, that candidly, I didn’t always understand. What for so many solely marks the end of school and start of summer is also a national day of recognition for those who gave their lives in service. 

The weight of their gift – in the name of freedom – can be a heavy burden to bear, especially for those who served alongside them. That burden is something I can empathize with, something I can respect, something I can honor, but it’s not something that I can say I have experienced first hand…and maybe that’s why so many Americans – civilians like me – shy away from the true meaning of Memorial Day. 

When I ask my veteran friends what Memorial Day means to them, they often respond by saying in so many words the same theme, “Memorial Day is just one day to honor my brothers and sisters we’ve lost. But in order to truly remember them, to honor them and to revere them, I *LIVE* for them. I pursue my purpose; I give back to others. I love my family and my friends and I have fun. I keep their name on their lips and memory alive in my mind on Memorial Day and all year round. For me, then, every day is a day to honor them.”

Because they can’t, all of us can honor those who gave their lives in service by living a life filled with love, purpose, vibrancy and gratitude for a debt that we can never fully repay. Remember the Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines who perished while wearing the flag of freedom. Reflect on the lives our nation lost and the legacies that live on today. 

This weekend, in whatever you do, wherever you travel and whomever you connect with, make a point to remember why many Americans have the day off.  Make sure to pause, ponder and press into Memorial Day’s purpose: To give gratitude to those who gave their all and live a life worthy of their sacrifice.