On Memorial Day, Honor Our Fallen Heroes — and Support Their Families

By Published on May 27, 2024

This Memorial Day, let’s remember our fallen heroes and their families. This breathes life into the sacrifices they’ve made to safeguard our freedom. Many of the United States’ military warriors paid the ultimate price in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and the War on Terror — and thus, their families have paid as well.

It is only because of fallen soldiers’ perseverance in wartime that we have freedom in peacetime. We must use it well. Never forget at what cost it was purchased.

Keeping the Memories Alive

I’m thankful I go to a university like Pepperdine, which actively acknowledges veterans’ wounds and makes space for them to heal. I served in the U.S. Army from 2015 to 2018. I’m honored now to serve as president of the Pepperdine Veterans Council, where I can help keep our heroes’ memories alive through community activities. Veterans come together for hikes, day trips, and dinners. We use our freedom for fun purposes and for supporting one another in this new stage of life.

At more serious events, like Pepperdine’s annual Raising of the Flags and Veterans Day Lunch, we embrace our duty to honor our soldiers. We also partner with American Legion Post 283 in Pacific Palisades, providing aid for their annual Fleet Week, monthly social events, and Memorial Day Parade. 

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Pepperdine awakened my purpose to be a servant leader like Christ. Pepperdine taught me to lead by asking, “How can I serve you?” I have witnessed firsthand the power student veterans have when we work together, whether it’s sharpening our faith, our minds, or our bodies. Iron sharpens iron (Prov. 27:17).

At Pepperdine, we honor America’s patriots at the Heroes Garden. It is an outdoor chapel on one of the highest points on campus, overlooking the ocean. The Heroes Garden was designed as a permanent reminder memorial to the victims who passed and heroes who rose on 9/11. Those who visit it find a beautiful space to sit and reflect, surrounded by stone benches and a peaceful water feature. This time of year, you can see native poppies spreading over the hillside. You see the words of Psalm 23 carved in stone as you exit the garden. On the green Malibu hillside, beside quiet waters, we refresh our souls and honor the sacrifices of heroes past, present, and future.

Gold Star Families Sacrifice, Too

As we spend time with our families this weekend, we should remember that the families of fallen heroes sacrifice, too. They carry their grief forever. They struggle with the challenges of losing a loved one — loneliness, empty beds and chairs, financial struggles due to lost income, and then facing the milestones and celebrations of life with enduring heartache for the one who isn’t there.

Along with the grief of losing someone, families of the fallen carry the particular weight of losing someone to war. For them, every day is like Memorial Day, but without the public ceremonies and barbecues. Their loss is a deep wound that often goes unseen. We must show the families of our fallen soldiers that their nation remembers and commemorates their sacrifice as well.

So today, reach out to the Gold Star families around you. If you know one, take a meal over, watch their kids for a few hours, donate toward their children’s college fund, or share memories with them. I recommend delivering a handwritten letter. This is a sincere, thoughtful approach to thank the family members for their fallen hero’s sacrifice. Encouragement goes a long way, and our community needs it more than ever.

The Apostle John wrote,

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” (NKJV, 1 John 4:7)

Be like Christ. Love one another to the best of your ability, just as our fallen brothers and sisters have loved us.

 

Brandon Olson is a U.S. Army veteran and the student president of the Pepperdine Veterans Council at Pepperdine University.

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