Honoring military service, support

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- For many, Memorial Day is viewed as the official beginning of summer. School is out, the pool is open and there is a long weekend to enjoy.

Memorial Day is observed each year on the last Monday of May. On this day, military members and civilians alike honor those who gave their lives serving our nation and affirm their commitment to support those they left behind.

Sumter, South Carolina is not nicknamed “the City of Uncommon Patriotism” for nothing. Named after Thomas Sumter, a brigadier general in the South Carolina militia during the American War of Independence, the city boasts a large number of retirees and unwavering support for Shaw Air Force Base and the U.S. military as a whole.

Personally, I count myself as lucky to live in this supportive community at such a politically-charged time. As the 2017 presidential election nears, I feel every aspect of the government and its employees are watched more closely and criticized more harshly than usual. I have friends stationed at military bases all over the world, and not all of them are afforded the luxury of being part of a community with such a large number of pro-military citizens.

This Memorial Day as you eat your hamburger or enjoy a cold beverage by the pool, I challenge you to remember that not everyone who served or is currently serving our great nation has the support you have as a member of Team Shaw and the Sumter community.

I challenge you to remember those who are currently stationed in areas of the world where they are not only unable to be with family and friends, but are treated with disdain by members of surrounding communities who do not support the U.S. and its objectives.

I challenge you to remember those who served in conflicts with little to no public support, such as the Vietnam War, and the dedication and character it took for them to continue fighting for the freedoms of a nation that did not appreciate their efforts.

I challenge you to remember the hundreds of thousands of white headstones that occupy the rolling green hills of Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia.

I challenge you to remember that each and every one of the approximately 1.2 million U.S. service members who have lost their lives in combat since the Revolutionary War left behind husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and friends.

I challenge you to let your brothers and sisters in arms know how proud their service makes you.

Most importantly, I challenge you to hold your head a little higher, not just on Memorial Day, but every day of the year, knowing that whether you are an active duty service member, a Reservist, a Guardsman, a retiree, a military spouse, a military parent or a military supporter, you are part of something worth remembering.

You are what makes our nation great, and I owe everything I have to you.