• 77°

With gratitude and honor

I am an Army brat. I’m an Army wife and an Army mother. I’m also a soldier, having served in the Army Nurse Corps for 29 years. I served in combat and, luckily, I returned. I have lost friends and colleagues, so needless to say, Memorial Day is important to me.

In 1971, Memorial Day became a national holiday by an act of Congress. The fourth Monday in May is a time for all Americans to pause and honor those who sacrificed their lives in defense of our nation. I almost cringe when someone tries to honor those of us who lived to tell about our experiences; there are other holidays that are designated for that. This day was set aside for us to reflect on the men and women in the military who paid the ultimate price. We all should be humbled and grateful.

Memorial Day 2020 will be somewhat different. There will be no large gatherings, no band concerts or sports events. Ceremonies will be altered in accordance with the new normal.

I cannot help but reflect on the strange parallel between today’s circumstances and wartime. No one wants their loved ones to die alone. Because of the Coronovirus-related restrictions, family and friends cannot be with their loved ones during their hospitalization. However, I am reassured that their absence has been filled by the many dedicated nurses, physicians and other health care personnel who are there to comfort them in their final hours. Likewise, I pray that those who wore the cloth of the nation on their last day had a hand to hold in their final hours, be it that of a nurse, field medic or fellow comrade.

My son is currently deployed overseas. I don’t know exactly where, and that is fine with me. Although we are both military, he doesn’t talk much about what he does, mainly because of the secretive nature of his work, but also because I’m his mother. He did share with me a dramatic rescue, an unbelievable resuscitation using a never-before tested technique and a difficult evacuation to a rear hospital. When I asked if it was turned out OK, he said “yes.” The patient died but not before his family was able to be with him, and for that his team deemed it a success.

I wonder what our fallen heroes think when they look down at our country’s divisiveness, vitriol and provocative protests. After all, they are the ones who defended our rights to do so; however, I suspect some are shaking their heads.

On this Memorial Day, I will remember those who paid the ultimate price. I will say a prayer of gratitude and honor. I will pray for peace and comfort for those who have lost loved ones in the service of their country. I will pray that the blue star on the flag that I hang in my window will not turn gold. And lastly, I will pray that I can live a life worthy of those who weren’t able to live theirs. We should all do that.

U.S. Army Col. Kathy Lynch Simpson (Ret.) is a resident of Washington and a Blue Star mother.