May 26th, 2019
I always wanted to be a Marine, but it wasn’t until the first day of rugby practice at the Naval Academy my sophomore year that I knew I was going to be a Marine. One of my coaches—an active duty larger-than-life Marine officer—took one look at me and declared, “Yep, you’re going to be a Marine.” That was Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Shea, who was killed the following year in combat near Fallujah, Iraq. He was the first person I knew to be killed in action and the first person I think of on Memorial Day, the federal holiday remembering and honoring persons who have died while serving in the Armed Forces.
People often confuse Memorial Day as another Veterans Day. The more you learn or the closer you are to its true meaning, the harder it is to balance the prescribed celebration with the sadness and solemnity of the sacrifices by the fallen men and women who are remembered on this day. But that’s the point: Remembrance. Different groups and people honor the day in different ways. For some, it’s a time of sorrow, guilt, or regret. For others, it’s an upbeat celebration of memories. Regardless of your approach, the important thing is that you remember, reflect, and then do what feels right.
If you’re looking for a way to honor those who have sacrificed, we invite you to join us. The National Moment of Remembrance occurs at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day. The act, passed by Congress, asks that all Americans pause for one minute and simply remember. Baseball games will stop. Amtrak whistles will sound. And if you come to the Google homepage on desktop, you’ll find an experience that will allow you to play Taps—the recognizable and haunting bugle call that is played at military funerals and is just about a minute long. That’s what I’ll be doing at 3 p.m. I’ll think about Kevin, Travis, Betsy, Van, Wes, Matt and others (the list never gets smaller), and I’ll be sad—but I’ll celebrate in the ways they would have wanted.
I’ll always wonder what Kevin saw in me (it certainly wasn’t my haircut), but I take pride in bearing witness to his legacy and that of everyone else who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.