All across the United States patriotic people walk up to a service member or veteran and say “thank you.” This is a great gesture of respect for those who serve this country in times of peace and war. I feel that if I just say “thank you,” then it is missing much of what I truly intend. I am a service member and veteran myself for nearly two decades serving in the United States Navy. I have seen the memorials to those fallen in action and those who have sacrificed parts of themselves, either physically or mentally, in the name of this country. I have witnessed service members’ families hardships from deployment and the pain of losing a spouse or parent.

I have made it a point to attend Memorial Day Mass in my local city in my dress uniform to pay my respects to those who have passed on. I go not to just say “thank you,” but to show that “I will remember.” I have told fellow veterans and service members and I believe they have started to feel the same way. I will remember the sacrifices you have made, the hardships you and your family endured and even when you pass, I will not forget. Veterans from past generations have told me the stories of what they went through.

I am not saying listen to every story of every service member you meet. I am not telling you that when you say “thank you” that it is not appreciated. What I am saying is, take a moment when you approach a service member or veteran and think about what hardship they and their family might have gone through. Say “I will remember.” Not everyone attends Memorial Day ceremonies, but when passing a cemetery say, “I will remember.” On Veterans Day, make it a point to say “I will remember” to a veteran, a service member and their families. These words have more meaning to a veteran than you think. #iwillremember

U.S. Navy HM2/E-5 Charlie L. Soto,

Kingsburg, currently stationed in Camp Lemonier, Djibouti Africa

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