Memorial Day in Their Words: Reflections from Veterans, Servicemembers and Their Families

Yahoo Contributor Network

Andrew Riggio's father, a WWII combat photographer, stormed Normandy Beach with a pistol in one hand -- and a camera in the other.

"Only an American would have the guts to run up that beach shooting pictures instead of bullets," he writes. "Our soldiers displayed so much courage and should be honored for it."

Alicia Cattoni recalls sharing bologna sandwiches with her grandfather, Ed Marshall, as he regaled her with his heroic Korean War stories, while her grandmother scolded him for doing so.

"I'm very proud of our veterans and servicemembers. If it weren't for people like my grandfather, I wouldn't be here today," she writes. Marshall served as an Army Machine-Gun Sergeant in F Company and the Section Leader in H Company during the 1950s in Korea.

Emilia Zs Rak's husband never speaks of war's horrors while he's awake. But when he's sleeping, she's acutely aware of the pain he encountered.

"Every time my husband revisits Vietnam in his sleep, I am starkly reminded of how a piece of his humanity was taken. But he gave it willingly so that future generations could sleep through the night without the horror and inhumanity he experienced," she writes. "On Memorial Day and every day I say, "Thank you for your service! Thank you for my peace at night."

Theirs are a mere handful of reflections ahead of Memorial Day, a time to mark and honor U.S. military veterans. Yahoo! News asked veterans, current servicemembers and their families to share their brief ruminations on Memorial Day -- what it means to them and how they're impacted. Here are their thoughts, in their words:

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There are a lot of veterans throughout our families; my grandfathers fought in Korea, my husband's grandfather fought in World War II, and they served in either the Army or Navy. These men never boasted about their time in the service because they felt they were just doing their jobs. On Memorial Day we remember those who fought for our freedom, we remember to say thank you, and you should too! -- Threesia Goff

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Memorial Day is celebrated once a year, but America's veterans and servicemembers are always close at heart. My dad served in the Army for 24 years, and my fondest memories are from years living on military bases like Port Hueneme and traveling the world. As an Army dependent, I traveled through England and Japan because my dad earned it, and because the Army gave us the opportunity. -- Lisa White

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I grew up in a military family as an Air Force brat; not only did my father serve in Vietnam and elsewhere, nearly every male on both sides of my family has served in the military from the Revolutionary War on. The important thing I learned from my family's service is that freedom and liberty are not free -- but paid for with the blood, sweat and tears of our service members and their families. -- Lyn Brooks

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During my 11 years of service in the Army, I developed many irreplaceable friendships. Memorial Day gives me another opportunity to honor the patriotism and sacrifice of those friends, and all others, who have given their lives in the service of our great nation. -- James Symanski

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From 1962 to 1982, I served in the U.S. Army, doing tours in Germany, Korea and, of course, Vietnam. On Memorial Day, though, my thoughts, and those of the people close to me, turn not to my own service, but to the thousands of others -- young men and women from farms, small towns and cities, from richly plowed fields to neatly trimmed campuses. They answered when their country called, often making the ultimate sacrifice. -- Charles Ray

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I come from a military family, one that stretches back to the Civil War. My sister is an Army veteran, as were both of my grandfathers who've now passed on. I have a favorite photo in my living room of my Grandpa Humphrey sitting at a French cafe during a break in WWII.

In my family, we remember the personal sacrifice and time spent away from family that our relatives gave. -- Shawn Humphrey

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Memorial Day is about remembering all those who have served in our armed forces and given their lives doing so. However, we can also use this occasion to remember how important it is to take care of our sons and daughters who return home from war. We need to ensure they receive top-notch medical and mental health services, as well as employment; the least we can do to repay our debts to them. -- James Schlarmann

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My husband is an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves. My father, father-in-law and brother also served in the Navy. My family extends our respect to those who sacrifice to keep us safe, our prayers for those who have fallen, and our thanks to the families who support their servicemen and women. You're all heroes to us. -- Kimberly Morgan

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A yellowed stack of love letters bound with frayed ribbon and a dulled Navy medal are recovered from the attic of the house where I grew up. They met only twice before Merle shipped out. Two years later he was back from across the Atlantic to marry Sally. And that's the way it was for my parents, the lucky ones in the mid-1940s. -- Laurie Jo Miller Farr

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My parents always hung the American flag outside our home on Memorial Day. As kids, we thought everyone did. As an adult, I think everyone should. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all those in service of our country. My father, 88, is a WWII Navy combat vet, and my mother (now deceased) served as a WAVE (Navy) in Washington D.C. during WWII. I couldn't be prouder. -- Karen D. Scioscia

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My husband served four and a half years in the Unites States Army, two of which he spent in Iraq. For our family, Memorial Day is a day to remember those who have given their lives but also to thank those who are still among us, ready to give their lives at a moment's notice. It's about reflecting on sacrifice, and remembering what those sacrifices were for. -- Kiesha Bowles

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My dad was a Marine in Vietnam and Memorial Day means a lot to my family. When my father came home from Vietnam, he was spit on. When I was a child, I accompanied my father while he visited the graves of soldiers who died serving our country. My father taught me to respect the American flag and what it stands for. I am proud of you, Dad, and all who serve this country. -- Philomena Hunt

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With my grandfather serving in the Army during the Korean War and my father-in-law serving as a Marine during Vietnam, Memorial Day is a chance to not only thank the brave men and women who have served our country, but also celebrate the safe return of those within our immediate family. Americans should be proud of those that have fought so that we could have the freedoms we do, and so others can as well. -- Kyle Fragnoli

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On this Memorial Day, Americans should take time to reflect on what our veterans and current servicemembers and their families sacrifice in order to serve our great nation. My father served in the Army for 20 years. As he has been transferred, our family has had to move from state to state and leave our friends and extended family behind.

So, this weekend, think about the lifestyles that servicemembers have adopted to protect this country. --Lindsay Rosen

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I served the United States Air Force during an American tragedy -- 9/11. To be called veteran is a title only a few wear.

Veterans are unsung heroes, military members and often forgotten. Although their image of service fades, the outline of their work remains. -- Joshua Cintron

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Memorial Day means a lot to my family because of our deep, long-standing military roots.

My late father served with the U.S. Navy during the 1970s, and I recently learned my great-grandfather served our country during World War I.

Memorial Day is more than just a good day to BBQ or hit the weekend sales; Memorial Day is truly a day to remember all our military have given for our continued freedom.

Thank you. -- Jennifer Waite

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My father served with Gen. Douglas MacArthur during World War II. Memorial Day is a day to reflect in the sacrifices that he and many others made for our freedom. -- Bill Hanks

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In almost 11 years in the Army, I found the true meaning of Memorial Day: To me, it's the day I am going to give thanks and remember all of our soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines who fought gallantly and bravely and eventually paid the ultimate price for our freedom. And because of that, we are forever in their debt. That is what Memorial Day is about. -- Brian Watson

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I was drafted by the Army in 1971. Older friends, returning from Vietnam, advised me against going at any cost. I joined the Navy instead. I still was part of an armed force that was convinced we must win the hearts and minds of a nation we occupied. It's the same gibberish used to justify Afghanistan. I especially don't like Obama committing troops to 10 years as an occupying force. American moms and dads did not raise their kids to be bad guys.

On Memorial Day, remember the veterans and the citizens who serve now. Do not send them lightly into harm's way. -- Michael Taylor

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Memorial Day means taking time to thank those who gave their lives for our freedom. My oldest brother served 22 years in the U.S. Navy and toured nearly the entire world. He missed two of his three daughters' births so we could stay free. He never went directly into combat, but he came very close more than once. Americans should know that our veterans risked or sacrificed their very lives for us. Give thanks. -- Raymond Bureau

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For veterans, deployment is not a one-time experience. The time they spend away remains with them all the time. They know they can never get back the months missed; some special moments with their kids or families will never be in their memory.

Memorial Day is a day to remember. Please do, because our veterans can never forget.

My husband is active-duty Navy and has been deployed three times during our four-year marriage. -- Sarahlynne Davis

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My husband is an Army Vietnam War veteran and a former Ranger. On Memorial Day, we share many quiet moments to remember all the military brothers he lost in combat.

Whether you shake a hand or simply listen, Memorial Day is the perfect day to thank our veterans. Take time to show them how much their sacrifices mean to you. God bless all our veterans and their families. Thank you all so much, for everything. -- Jackie McPherson

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