May 26, 2008

Good day, team,

Today is the Monday on which we officially celebrate Memorial Day, but the actual holiday is May 30. This year, then, we have not just a day but a week in which to ponder the significance of the holiday and what it means to many Americans.

I grew up in a generation that was not particularly well-schooled in the histories of World Wars I and II. The war that we knew, the Vietnam War, took the lives of many of our high school and college classmates. The ones that did return suffered a depth of emotional and psychological damage that none of us could have anticipated. So holidays like Memorial Day were looked upon as not particularly significant or even with negative associations.

It took me another 20 years to fully appreciate what it might be like to be 18 years old and freezing to death in a foxhole in France for the freedom of my country. With the help of the author Stephen Ambrose, director Steven Spielberg, who produced “Band of Brothers,” and others, I have learned what hardship these soldiers (and all soldiers) endure and how it affects an entire nation of people for generations.

When my Uncle Bud died a few years ago, the entire family was shocked to learn that he had earned a Purple Heart in World War II. This news surfaced in the obituary in his local newspaper in Bangor, Maine, where he had lived his entire life. My Uncle Bud was a very happy go-lucky guy. He worked for the railroad hauling freight for many years, despite the fact that he lived with bits of shrapnel embedded in his left side for 62 years. He never complained, and he never talked about his experiences in the war.

My husband’s father served in the army in the Philippines. We know he witnessed many atrocities, but he never talked about his experiences either. This tack was typical of World War II veterans and, because they didn’t share their experiences, we often never knew how brave they were and how they coped with daily life in such difficult conditions.

Today, our soldiers fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sometimes I turn on the very end of the nightly news on public television just to witness the acknowledgment—in pictures, names, ages and place of birth—of the soldiers who have died in the past week. Public broadcasting shows these pictures in silence as a way of honoring them. I do this to be reminded of these young people who enlisted to make a better life for themselves and for others. It is a way for me to remember that life is brief and to appreciate the  freedom that I have.

This week, your challenge is to honor those who have died in service to others. Maybe it was a policeman you knew or a great uncle who died in the second World War. Perhaps you honor a fireman who died trying to save others or a colleague’s son who never made it back from his tour of duty in Iraq.

We have so few times in our lives when we stop to honor others, and this week gives us a rare opportunity. Light a candle or say a prayer; meditate on the spirits of these brave people, or educate yourself about some of their experiences: whatever is meaningful for you.

We all know someone who has been touched by war or tragedy and the courageous people who, in a brave act of service, have given their lives. Let’s take a moment and bless them in memoriam.

Have a great week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

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