Memorial Day is for people like this man:
And this man:
And this one:
Last, but certainly not least, two Soldiers that went through the Defense Language Institute when I was a Drill Sergeant. First is Andrew James Creighton...a sweetheart of a Soldier. I don't think there was a single one of us who wasn't proud of him and heart-broken when we got the news that AJ Creighton died in Afghanistan. You can see a very touching tribute to AJ here and read more about this man's life here.
Second, Jacques Earl "Gus" Brunson. He went to DLI for awhile before reclassing Infantry. He kept in touch with the drills after leaving and we knew he was in Iraq collecting items to give to the Iraqi children. He was in the National Guard and volunteered for this tour in Iraq because it would be better money for his two children. He was the first casualty for our cadre of Drill Sergeants to hear of.
These Soldiers may not have been members of my family tree, but they are members of my Army family.
That's not to say that there aren't women that need remembering, but I don't have any in my family tree to be memorialized on this day.
As far as family traditions Memorial Day seemed to have little to do with the military in my family. Memorial Day was the time when flowers were placed on the graves of all of my ancestors. My mother still treks to the old family cemeteries each year to visit their graves. I make the trek as a part of going home, but not as a part of Memorial Day. I probably would if I lived anywhere near "home," but I don't.
I actually like the thought of remembering ancestors on Memorial Day even if it isn't the intent of the holiday (you can read more about Memorial Day here), but I still don't want to be thanked for my service today. What I want is for you to remember those that died so you could live in the country and world you do...even with all its flaws. When you're grilling and sitting in the backyard having a beer have a drink in honor of those men and women that made the ultimate sacrifice.