On Memorial Day, Remember The Spouses And Children

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. Often confused with other military holidays, Memorial Day is to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in combat. Veterans Day is for remembering veterans of foreign wars and Armed Forces Day is for remembering all who served.

Like many Americans, I come from a family with many military members. Thankfully, none of my relatives died in combat. I want to pay the proper respects on this day, so I find myself seeking out stories about heroic soldiers who lost their lives while serving others. And while I was doing such searches, Ayelet Waldman pointed readers to a web site that touched me a great deal. It’s called The American Widow project. The idea behind the project is that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have killed some 3,000 military members with spouses. Many fail to recognize the sacrifices these spouses have made. And since their experience — more common during the 1940s — is somewhat unique, they are disregarded or ignored.

The project includes a web site where widows can tell their stories or share advice on how they coped with their loss, a DVD documentary that gives a candid look into the stories of six military widows (everything from that knock on the door announcing your spouse’s death to life as a single parent and decorating your loved one’s headstone), a newsletter, hotline and events.

The stories are difficult to read, each one written by some young newlywed or mother. Here’s Kimberly’s recent addition:

Every time I go to write this I can’t make it through and have to stop. After six months I still can’t hold it together when I tell the story and it breaks my heart all over again. You were my high school sweetheart and meant the world to me. You gave me two of the most precious children in the world and the best Daddy they could have had. You left September 27th, two months after our son was born headed for training then you left once again on January 4th this time to Camp Julien in Afghanistan. You did your best to surprise me by coming home on R&R for our anniversary on July 2nd but I know you too well and guessed you were coming home. When you left to return to Camp Julien you had 35 days left before you were coming home for good.

To those spouses and children who lost a loved one in recent conflicts or conflicts long ago, a hearty “thank you” for your sacrifice, too.

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