Originally published by the Austin American-Statesman
It happens every year: Memorial Day comes around and I am showered with well-wishes and sincere thanks for my service by strangers and friends alike. Though I understand the sentiments are genuine and I try to be gracious, I bristle inside. The more acceptable it becomes to “celebrate” Memorial Day with a mattress sale and a barbecue, the fewer Americans take the time to fully understand the meaning behind a federal holiday observed on the last Monday in May.
The reality is many people simply do not realize what this holiday really means. Too often people don’t know the difference between Memorial Day — for the service members we have lost — and Veterans Day — for anyone who has worn the uniform. I understand all too well the purpose of Memorial Day. I have seen men die in combat.
It feels like a lifetime ago now, but I was inspired to join the military and fight following the brutal terrorist attacks of 9/11. I left college and joined the Navy, and eventually I became a Navy SEAL. I wasn’t sure where in the world I might find myself, or what I might be required to do, but I felt compelled to serve my country.