On Memorial Day Skip to content

On Memorial Day

A special Memorial Day essay, written in 2020 by retired Marine Lt. Colonel Mike Broihier when he was a candidate for U.S. Senate in Kentucky.

2 min read

As a campaign grows in size and complexity, there is a point where you have to give up some control. You have to trust your staff and volunteers to communicate your message, sometimes in your voice, and that is a little scary.

To keep it simple, I have given my staff only two hard and fast rules:

  • We don’t use people as props; and
  • Nobody on the staff is allowed to speak about combat, war, sacrifice, or valor except me or my wife, who is also a retired Marine.

On Memorial Day, those two rules are even more important, as I brace myself to see advertisements with gauzy photos of politicians laying wreaths on graves.

To them I say — even if you are a veteran, even if the grave is someone you knew, or worse yet, saw die — to use their lonely marker in a campaign ad is a betrayal.

Today is a sad day in our house. Lynn and I have both lost Marines for whom we feel a great deal of responsibility. Frankly, as much as we have tried in the past to make it a moment of remembrance and celebration, it fills me with sadness and self-doubt.

One recurring dream I have is of a young Marine I lost. While lying in an unzipped body bag, he asks me the same question, “What now, Skipper?”

It is never accusatory or plaintive, just a question. What happens now?

Well, now we zip you up, put you in an aluminum box and never see you again. Strangers in Dover will clean you up and dress you and send you home to your family.

Your family won’t get to see your face before you are buried, but I know there will be a picture, maybe your bootcamp picture in Dress Blues. They will cry and grieve and lower you into the ground. They too will never see you again. But none of us will forget you.

That Marine doesn’t visit me as often as he used to, but he still stops by some nights. After he visits, I get out of bed and make a drink and have a smoke or two as I try, again, to come up with a better answer to his question. But I never do.

Today, I will say to that young man and the others Lynn and I know who’ve gone before us, you are not forgotten and you are missed. Tonight, we’ll have a few drinks, play some cards, and when we’ve summoned the courage, we will say your names out loud and drink in your memory. But those names belong to us.



Print Friendly and PDF

Guest Author

Articles by outside authors. See the article for the author and contact information.