By Jessica McKinney

The beautiful thing about memories of those loved and lost
is that there are so many ways in which these recollections can manifest. The
bittersweet remembrance of a loved one can be conjured up in the most vivid of
ways by the most minor and mundane of occurrences—the shape of a young woman’s
smile identical to her late grandmother’s, the cackle of a young man’s genuine
laugh reminiscent of his fallen brother’s, the mild shuffle in an older man’s
gait unmistakably inherited from his father. For those without a personal
connection to those lost, such affections may flit by as routine, unremarkable,
inconsequential; however, for those encountering a memory rekindled, these
moments can be inexplicably powerful.
Is the prior knowledge of a person individually, however,
necessary to feel a personal connection to his or her life? Only a week ago,
our nation came together to commemorate those in our military who selflessly made
the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our way of life. Sitting in the audience of
the memorial ceremony during the King’s County 148th Memorial Day
Parade, listening attentively to the tear-jerking reading of the individual
names of the fallen who resided in the local community, I pictured what it
would be like to know each of them personally. What types of inside jokes did
they share with their siblings? What were their formative memories with their
oldest friends? What genre of music stirred their souls? What was it about
their lives, their values, their character that motivated them to become a part
of something bigger than themselves while knowing that they could lose it all
for the sake of many who they would never even meet?
My heart is with the Gold Star Family members who now carry
the torches of their fallen loved ones and must serve as the sole respondents
of these most personal questions. While Memorial Day may be a week in the past—with
wreaths delicately laid and poetic melodies of Taps faded into the distance—the
sobering reality of the impact such sacrifices have on a family is something
our Gold Star community members must live with every single day. And while
those of us fortunate enough not to have endured such a loss could never
purport to understand such tragedy, we can still offer our expressions of
support, compassion, and sensitivity on a personal and heartfelt level—and on
an ongoing basis. We can acknowledge that one person’s seemingly perfunctory remark
or mannerism could unearth a wave of emotion and poignant, bittersweet
remembrance for one coping with a loss. Better yet, we can weave the solidarity
and principles of Memorial Day consciously into our everyday routines, offering
our utmost expressions of support and gratitude to all military families for whom sacrifice and service are a way of
life—without needing a national holiday to serve as a reminder to do so.

Will you join me in thanking a military family today?