Surviving Spouse Corner: Memorial Day Reminder

By Gail Joyce, Surviving Spouse Advisory Committee chair

What does Memorial Day mean to you? For many, it’s the unofficial beginning of summer; a day for family gatherings, baseball games, and barbecues. But for others — especially those who have served in the military and their families — it’s a time to pause and remember why we celebrate this very special day.

Across the nation, MOAA members will support efforts marking this day of remembrance by laying wreaths, giving speeches, playing taps, marching in parades, participating in flag ceremonies, and conducting memorial services to pay tribute to our nation’s men and women who fell in the line of duty. But I, like many, don’t need Memorial Day to serve as a reminder of the price we pay when we put our young people in harm’s way. My son, James Casey Joyce, a U.S. Army Ranger, died Oct. 3, 1993, in Mogadishu, Somalia, in the worst firefight since Vietnam. That day, 18 young men lost their lives; six were from Casey’s unit, the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, from Fort Benning, Ga. Casey was 24 and my youngest. For me, Memorial Day is my opportunity to remind everyone in every way I can — speaking at events, writing about my son, giving interviews, and working on the Field of Flags in Granbury, Texas — about the five Rangers (Jim Cavaco, Richard Kowalewski, Dominique Pilla, Lorenzo Ruiz, and Jamie Smith) who died in combat along with Casey, and all those who have died in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan (6,828 at last count).

All across the U.S. on Memorial Day, our grateful nation comes together to honor these men and women. More than 1 million have fallen in combat during the 241-year history of our nation. We should all pause to remember them and honor their selfless sacrifice.

In Granbury, we remember and honor our military through A Field of Flags. On Highway 377, 1,000 flags will be waving in the breeze, each representing an individual, unit, or branch of service. This Memorial Day, spend some special time with your loved ones, but take time to reflect on our freedoms that our husbands, wives, sons, and daughters have died to protect.