By Vanessa Desiato
When I was in sixth grade, I won a hometown contest where I gave a speech at our town’s Memorial Day services. I wrote that Memorial Day was when Americans remembered those who gave their lives for our country.
My brother told me that if he didn't come home from Iraq, that we should tell people that he did his job. He didn't come home. Those words have echoed through the past nine years of my life as my family tries to move forward.
So what does Memorial Day mean to me, now that I'm older, more experienced, and a little bit
taller? It means we should stop and think about the sacrifices men and women have given to make this world a safer place for someone else, not just on Memorial Day, but every day. As an intern at the Department of Veterans’ Services, serving Massachusetts' veterans, every day is a Memorial Day/Veteran’s Day hybrid. These soldiers are stronger and braver than I could ever imagine myself being. They are heroes. They are people like my brother, who heard the call to serve, and couldn’t be persuaded to do anything else. Someone I grew up with making snowballs, blowing up hotdogs, and climbing on, was a hero-in-the-making, and I had no idea.
Prior to my brother entering the military, Memorial Day was a morning service my parents got dressed up for while I watched them move around the house. I was unaware of the importance of these ceremonies, as well as the man Travis was going to become. I saw him as a typical teenage brother: the grumpy, football playing, camp counselor who let me follow him around. After he joined the military, he became the far away soldier who we sent care packages to every other week. Post boot camp, he was the brother who lived with his fiancée, came over multiple times a week, and was a far cry from the boy who wore ripped baggy jeans in high school.
I remember the days before he shipped out as snapshots: his foot powder getting all over our trampoline as we jumped in circles, dancing in front of him at his wedding so his fiancée could get upstairs in her wedding dress before it started, and accidentally “pantsing” him on the last dinner we had together, as I was refusing to let go of his waist.
The military made my brother become the man he was meant to be. He wanted to help people and did that by joining the Marines, the only thing he felt he needed to do. My brother has shown me what dedication, honor, and respect are. He has shown me what it means to be a hero.
To me, Memorial Day is the day we remember what it means to be a hero. Heroism is deeply rooted in the soldiers we say goodbye to with our tear-stained faces, and those we welcome home with those happier tears. Memorial Day is the day we thank those who did not get the joyous homecoming, or have since been laid to rest. It is the day we remember the heroes who gave everything for the soldiers serving next to them and the people they left at home.
Memorial Day is a day we are reminded of what combat veterans have given to this country, whether it's years of service, the first year of their marriage, or their lives. Every combat veteran has given something to this country, without asking for anything in return. Memorial Day is a day to remember these men and women for who they are: heroes, who did their job.
Vanessa is a Gold Star sister, her brother Travis Desiato was killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004. She works for the Department of Veterans’ Services as an Intern, and just completed her first year at Emerson College as a Writing, Literature, and Publishing Major. She is from Bedford, Massachusetts.