Sharing pride in their service, pain over their loss

On this upcoming Memorial Day, we unite to honor the courageous men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. The impact of this day can be profound, especially for those who have a direct connection, such as a spouse, child, parent, or sibling, to someone who has died in connection with military service.

As a veteran and a father who has experienced this personal loss, I know firsthand the life-changing effect it has on families, both emotionally and psychologically.

However, the impact is also felt indirectly by people not ‘related to’ someone who was lost. A loss impacts friends, military units and installations, as well as organizations like Family Readiness Groups that are associated with those units.

It can be a time of mixed emotions for those both directly and indirectly connected to fallen soldiers, as they may feel a sense of pride for their service and sacrifice, but also feel the pain of their loss and the absence of their presence.

Survivors’ guilt can resurface as well as a deep sadness for the holidays and events missed together.

On Memorial Day, it is our nation’s duty to reflect on the importance of supporting our military community and families who continue to bear emotional scars and have difficulty moving forward from the memories of recent losses, as well as those lost long ago.

That is why I am proud to lead Vets4Warriors, which provides confidential peer support and resources to service members, veterans, and their families 24/7, 365 days a year. I have seen the direct impact that our veteran peers have had on the lives of the military community, and I am inspired by their commitment to making a difference.

Around Memorial Day, our veteran peers historically field a higher volume of calls from members of the military community struggling to find closure or coming to terms with loss they have experienced.

For many service members who have lost a military friend or comrade, there are feelings of guilt or shame that often arise from having survived a traumatic event or circumstance when others did not. Survivors may feel a sense of responsibility for their friend’s death, or may struggle with the feeling that they should have done more to prevent it.

Vets4Warriors was founded on the belief that no veteran should ever feel alone or unsupported, and that every veteran deserves access to the resources and support they need to thrive. Our peer support model, which is staffed entirely by veterans, allows us to connect with callers on a deeper level and provide personalized support that is tailored to their unique needs.

As we remember our fallen heroes this Memorial Day, let us also remember the living heroes who continue to serve our country and our communities every day. Let us honor their sacrifice by committing ourselves to supporting them in every way we can. Whether it’s volunteering with veteran-focused charities, donating to organizations like Vets4Warriors, or simply taking the time to thank a veteran for their service, we can all make a difference.

Together we can remember the fallen, honor the living, and commit ourselves to building a brighter future for our veterans and their families. On this Memorial Day, we must unite as a nation to renew our commitment to supporting those who continue to serve.

Most importantly, let us honor the sacrifice and courage of the brave men and women willing to serve knowing the potential consequences of their service. Their courage, which brings pride to our nation, needs to be remembered not just on Memorial Day, but every day.

Without the willingness of the few to serve, our nation would not be the amazing country it is today.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Mark A. Graham is the executive director at Vets4Warriors & Rutgers UBHC National Call Center. Donations to Vets4Warriors are handled through the Rutgers University Foundation, EIN 23-7318742.

Have an opinion?

This article is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please email us. Want more perspectives like this sent straight to you? Subscribe to get our Commentary & Opinion newsletter once a week.