05:00 AM

American Family salutes our fallen heroes on Memorial Day

Take one minute to remember


Employee Adam Schwartz reflects on the comrades he lost while serving in the Marines in Iraq, and why fallen service members deserve a moment of reflection on Memorial Day.


For the last 13 years, Thanksgiving has had a new meaning for me.

You are probably wondering why I am talking about Thanksgiving when it is Memorial Day. Well, Thanksgiving is one of several Memorial days for me. In 2004, my unit was deployed to Iraq, and Thanksgiving 2004 was when we lost or our first marine. I will not spend time telling you how great Ryan was and all of his enduring qualities, as there were many, but I will say he was an infantry marine through and through. He embodied our ideals of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.

Ryan died in a road side blast from and IED. He was not surrounded by his family at the annual holiday get together. He had not had an actual hot meal in weeks. He died on the side of a road thousands of miles away from the comforts of a civilian life.

I remember hearing that Ryan had died and sort of glazing over. Unfortunately, in combat there is little time to reflect on the life lost and person whose rack now sits empty. Another patrol is already gearing up to move out, and the mission does not stop for the fallen.

I do not think I ever really got to process the passing of the five marines our company lost, but I think about those men every day since. Ryan’s story is just one of thousands that took it upon themselves to take an oath to his country, and the men and women next to them on those roads in Iraq. He never asked for medals, awards, or books to be written about him. He just did what he thought was right, what few are willing or able to do. To lay down your life for people you will never meet and most will never know you were there.

I have heard many say that a military life is a thankless job, but a necessary job that needs to be done. People like the marines from my unit who stepped up and took on that job are why Memorial Day is important. Those marines I served with would never ask for a parade or a ceremony, but as citizens of the nation they swore to protect, we owe them a minute. One minute out of one day of the year to remind us all that the other 364 days are the way they are because of brave, humble men and women like Ryan.

Without them and the many before and after them, we would not have what we have today. This Memorial Day, no matter where you are and what you are doing, take one minute away from the parties, parades, camping and fun and remember those who never made it home.

The marines I served with who never made it home get some of my time every single day, and they deserve a minute from us all this Memorial Day.