Before You Fire Up That Grill….Give Thanks. To Him. And for Them.

Before you fire up the grill on Memorial Day by Karen Ehman at

Memorial Day.

Here in the Midwest that means getting a jump start on yard work. Planting colorful flowers or healthy vegetables. Grilling out. Maybe fishing. Or taking in a ballgame.

Oh yeah….and maybe we might remember that the original intent of the day has something to do with soldiers.

Not soldiers who are enlisted today. Not even the ones who bravely served in years past.

I mean the ones we can only see today by visiting a cemetery.

When we were first married and didn’t have children, we often “borrowed” our good friends’ son Andrew.

Todd reading Andrew “Uncle Wiggly” before bed. It had been a long day of painting for both of them. {We let Andrew “paint” with a water bucket & a brush}

He loved “putting on his worker belt” and helping me clean and scrub. Or having Todd read him the book Uncle Wiggly. And eating my homemade oatmeal cookies. Lots of them. {Shhh..I never let his mama know!) And playing pretend by protecting me from any approaching enemies.

Andrew always wanted good to win over evil. As soon as he was able, this blonde-haired boy became a military man.

On Christmas Day in 2006, at the age of 19, Andrew was killed in Baghdad by an IED just shortly after arriving there.

Our small town rallied to support his grieving family. Our old gang of girlfriends from the church we attended back when Andrew was little all went in to buy his mom Tami diamond earrings to wear in his remembrance. His dad Al now has a wall in his local business dedicated to the military heroes with ties to our area.

Al and Tami, along with  Andrew’s two sisters, grandparents, and other family members and friends, miss him terribly.

Every. Single. Day.

Both Todd and I had instilled in us a thankfulness for veterans and service men and women and tried very hard to pass that on to our children–Yes, you will stand up when the flag passes and put your hand over your heart. And yes, you will stop whatever you are doing when you see someone in uniform and go over and thank them for serving our country. Non-negotiable. {This past post from my then 18-year-old daughter shows it just may have rubbed off}

However, I still don’t think I really “got” Memorial Day until Andrew……I mean Private First Class Nelson….. died serving. And I still don’t totally get it. He was like a son when he was little. But he wasn’t actually my son.

So before you fire up that grill and enjoy times with friends and family this weekend, give thanks to God for our freedom.

And to the little ones like Andrew who grew up and put off having that backyard barbecue in order to put on a uniform. And the ones who died in past wars to ensure your right to host that barbecue in the first place. Or to attend that church service. Or to speak your mind freely.

And if you know a family who has lost a military member, why not give them a call? Or take them a meal. Or flowers. Or kidnap them and take them out for coffee.

Why, you could even invite them to a barbecue.

But remember, Memorial Day barbecues cost a lot.

And I’m not talking about the price of hot dogs.

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