Memorial Day is not a day my family sees as Happy day or a day that we get to party, it is a day to remember and honor our lost loved ones and the lost loved ones of many of my friends. Today we go to a cemetery, sit at a headstone, and spend time with AC2 Matthew Hicks. This man is a sailor, a son, a best friend and most important a father. He has many family members and friends who almost 12 years later still miss him and come to visit him here at his final resting place surround by many others.
AC2 Matthew Hicks was only 25 when he died in Phuket, Thailand. He was young, healthy, enjoyed being a Sailor and loved being a father to our son. He sadly died because of severe complications due to dehydration while on his ship, by the time he got the specialized care he needed it was too late. His family, as well as I, where lucky enough to fly to him and be with him in his final days. His loss was massive for our family and changed life for us all especially our four-year-old son.
From the moment we lost him, I made it a point to make sure Matts presence would always be in our home and we would celebrate his life the way we would if he were still here in person. Memorial Day is a day that when we are in town we spend at his gravesite, we bring food (donuts from a place he always went), we buy flowers and we sit with him. So many families go see their loved ones on this day and to sit and watch all of them come makes me proud. I am proud that people do not just see this day as a BBQ, pool party or vacation day. Many Americans pay tribute and honor those military members who are no longer with us.
Some years when we are not in San Diego, we go to Washington, D.C. to an event held by Taps (Tragedy Assistance Program for survivors), a program where over 2000 family members and children get together for a healing weekend. We remember our loved ones, share them, heal, meet other families, and just get together in an environment that supports our unique loss. It is the most amazing experience anyone in my shoes could take part in and is an amazing way to remember the ones who are gone.
With military loss, there are lots of special circumstances that make the loss extremely complicated. For us, he died in the middle of deployment and our brain tricks itself to just think he is still on deployment and will be back soon. Then the children, many too young to understand the loss of their parent since they are already gone, struggle with understanding they will never come back. The struggles are many and the types of military deaths are so vast. Memorial Day honors all types, no matter the manner of death. They all served this country and deserve to be honored. For many military families, every day is Memorial Day.
There are so many ways American’s can help families, like mine, during this time and they are so simple yet so meaningful and will make you think of Memorial Day a different way.
- Go visit your local military cemetery and walk around. Maybe place some flowers or flags.
- DO NOT say Happy Memorial Day as it is NOT a happy day to many people.
- Learn and teach the meaning of the day.
- Fly your flags at half-mast.
- Go to a local Memorial Day ceremony.
- Find some names of those lost and post them asking for a moment of silence.
- Take a moment of silence during your day.
- Make red poppies as a craft, learn about them and why they are worn on this day.
- Watch a Memorial Day tribute online.
- Create a gold star flag and learn what they are.
So, for 2020, my family will be at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, spending time with Matt, thinking of my Grandpa Ken and my husband Grandfather Granville who served and passed as well and remembering all the others who today is about and their families. To all the Gold Star families out there, please know our family loves you, we appreciate your loved ones sacrifice and they will never be forgotten.