What does Memorial Day mean to me?

How many of us have learned about Memorial Day but don’t really relate to the essence of its purpose?  Growing up, Memorial Day was the symbolic beginning of summer. Pool’s opened, amusement parks were in full swing and the end of school was near.  As a teenager, Memorial Day became about backyard BBQ and spending time with friends and family.  Remembering the soldiers who had sacrificed their lives for our country occupied little to no mind share.  However, after I received a commission and served in combat operations in Iraq, Memorial Day became a day of realization and remembrance.


On July 23rd, 2003, my brother-in-arms and close friend CAPT Joshua Byers was leading a convoy just outside of Ramadi when an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) was detonated under his HUMVEE.  He was killed almost instantly but not before he was able to speak his final order “Keep moving forward” to his soldiers.

Josh Byers in the TOC (Tactical Operations Center) in Habbiniya

Josh Byers

A West Point graduate, Josh was a born leader with a bright future.  His overwhelming character and charisma kept everyone’s spirits high while we occupied Fallujah and Ramadi, one of the most violent spots in Iraq during 2003.  He was one of those special individuals who made you feel better about yourself, just by his mere presence.  America lost one of its best young men on that day in July and even now, almost 16-years later, I feel his loss every single day.

2/3 ACR Staff in front of painting of Saddam Hussein

Memorial Day Meaning

Memorial Day for me is about remembering my time in combat, the soldier’s I served with who didn’t return and those that did return only to find the toll combat takes on the body and the soul.  It is about celebrating and mourning Josh’s life and his friendship.  Memorial Day is about my gratitude to Josh for the sacrifice he made so that I may pursue happiness.  It is about my gratitude for all of the wonderful people that support me.  It is about my appreciation of daily life and for the amazing perspective I have gained.

Memorial Day is still about BBQ and Pools and it should be.  But for me, Memorial Day means remembering to have GRATITUDE.  Let us know what Memorial Day means to you!

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