“This was the protective shelter they used to avoid incoming rocket attacks launched by N. Vietnamese communist soldiers who infiltrated the mountains near our base. Doug Condit, on my right, was my close friend and roommate in Vietnam. He went missing on 26 Nov 1967, 19 days after me. Doug was flying with another great guy, Col. Bert Brennan, USAF when their plane went down over North Vietnam. They both were declared Killed in Action after the war.”
Memorial Day means many things in our culture. For many it marks the end of the school year, and the beginning of summer. In Orlando this weekend, it was clear that it means the rush to vacation at one of the theme parks, while for others it’s the annual trip to the beach.
Those are important markers in the rhythm of life, but let’s also remember that it’s officially set aside as a time to honor those who gave their life in serving our country. They sacrificed themselves on our behalf. That’s a hard concept to grasp when we’re living the good life. How should we feel knowing that someone else has given his or her life for our liberty, privilege and enjoyment of life?
During the Vietnam War, I lost three very close friends from the days of training and deployment and several others from high school and college days. They were all great guys and brave warriors. Like most all who go to war and come back alive, I often reflect on this loss—how I came back and my buddies didn’t. There is no way to understand how God’s providence works and most warriors who have lost mates understand this type of guilt.
Those of us who made it back carry on with our lives, moving through the seasons of life, but there is always a sad and empty place in our hearts as we recall our lost friends.
As we consider a day of memorial, it’s a good time to reflect on how we can pay tribute to them. If they could speak to us, I think they would say –
- Honor us when you pause in the rhythms of life to remember our sacrifice and the loss to our families.
- Go out and give your sacrifice by putting service to others and country ahead of self. You will honor us by living and leading with honor.
Most recently in his Memorial Day address, President Barack Obama honored men and women who have served our country—including those POWs that spent time in the Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam.
Let’s never forget those who did not return and honor them every day as we live our lives. Please share your comments on ways that today’s leaders in all sectors of society can honor the memories of those that gave their lives for our continued freedom.
Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media. He is a leadership consultant and expert in team building, executive development & assessment
His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.