Keep Their Spirit Alive


Welcome back from Memorial Day. Sometimes these 4 day weeks put pressure on us to achieve 5 days worth of work. But before you start churning through it all, you might gather up strength and purpose from Memorial Day.

On Thursday, my wife and General Cutler invited the “families of the fallen” soldiers to come together for a memorial service at the Governor’s Residence. While there, a number of family members shared on tape with me what they’d like people to know about their sons. What was most striking to me was the number who talked about how their son (or brother or husband) was so outgoing, gregarious, and fun-loving. Patriotic, too, as you’d expect. But these men displayed an intense energy for life that family members kept talking about. More than a few said, “we tried to talk him out of going” or “going back, but he would not be stopped.”

They fought – and died – for all of us. I wonder if we should remember them not only in thought. But remember them by acting in the spirit they displayed. Their actions invite us to:

* Love our country – get educated, speak, vote, pay our taxes
* Jump into action – even when things are ambiguous – even when people warn us of the risks of action
* Find purpose greater than “me” and “mine” – to live . . . and even die for

Few reading this message will face the potential risk of an IED or a suicide bomber this week.  In gratitude to those who do, live courageously for a great purpose this week, and

Lead with your best self,


  • Dan,
    Thanks for the newsletter. I appreciate it each week, and especially this week. I, too, participated in a couple of Memorial Day ceremonies this weekend, and was reminded of the sacrifice of so many over the years. It is easy to get distracted by the pressures of the moment, but we do have much to be thankful for, and it is good to be reminded of it from time to time.

  • I also enjoy reading your newsletter and personal reflections. However, this time I was disappointed that you did not mention that females serve and die for our country as well as males! What a huge oversight.


    • Kathy,

      You are right. I should have been more inclusive.

      I was actually just “reporting” in this case. In Michigan, we have lost one woman soldier (164 men), and her family was not there. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed, frankly, by the way in which men in our – and most other – cultures bear the weight of war.

      The contribution of women should not be overlooked. You are right about that. Yet men, who in some respects get very little respect from our culture, and are the favorite butt of jokes (watch sitcoms, commercials, etc. to see men routinely made to look foolish and irrelevant). The reality is they are paying the price heavily.

      Thanks for the reminder.


  • I enjoy all of your blog entries, but this one was a soft and, at the same time, chilling reminder of our American gifts and how we take them for granted. I attended our local Memorial Day parade yesterday in my beloved small town of Buchanan and watched the veterans, the color guard, the midget league baseball players, the vintahge cars, the fire trucks, the school band, etc. I looked around at the exquisitely beautiful day, also being enjoyed by my neighbors. What a gift it all is!
    So, thank you for the reminder that Memorial Day thoughts should be with us the year around!
    Kathy Rossow
    Retired Executive Director
    Volunteer Center of Southwest Michigan

  • Dan, What a wonderful thing you and the Governor did for these hurting families. You are to be commended. We live in a great nation and we are blessed for it.

  • Thanks for doing a great thing! Our troops deserve to be commended for their extraordinary sacrifice. Thanks for reminding all of us that Memorial Day is not about travel, boats, gas prices and sales… but giving thanks for the freedom we enjoy because of the sacrifice of others.
    Grassroots Organizer
    Mulhern in ’10

  • thank you for reminding us of the qualities of the men and women who’ve served our country. I spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer, and I beieve that that program, too, is one that allows individuals to serve our country in a different and complementary way.

    I watched an amazing program on the public television station this weekend about WW2 soldiers. It was a reminder that so often the people who sacrifice their lives are young and idealistic and eager to make a difference. Hopefully those qualities will help us resolve the current challenges facing our country and the world at large.

  • Thanks for the reminder of the greater picture! It is easy to egt lost in the “3 day weekend” excitement and to miss the reflective piece that the day should bring.

  • Most of the men and women who now serve in uniform are too young to have heard JFK the first time he urged us to “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” The spirit of these words may not be as universally accepted as they were when first spoken in 1961, but those who are casualties of war — as well as all of those who continue to serve — live that spirit every day.

    About three years ago, my family arrived at the Gettysburg National Cemetery, by coincidence, at the beginning of the July 4th weekend (the anniversary of the battle, in addition to Independence Day). We were asked if we would like to place small American flags at the graves of the Michigan soldiers who died there. Of course, we were honored to do so, and we took a few seconds with each flag to remember what each of those young men did. Their sacrifice is no less important today than it was 145 years ago when they left this world.

    I reiterate the thanks to Dan and the Governor for hosting these honored families. Frankly, I hadn’t heard about it before reading this blog. It’s important to thank our service personnel and their families while we can.

  • Hi Dan,

    Thanks for a wonderful message, for sharing and for remembering our fallen and their families. It is important for all of us to take pause, thank those who serve and have served in preservng our security, our way of life and our freedom, and to give our silent gratitude for all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

    Best Regards,


  • Daer Dan and RfL Readers,

    Thank you to the Governor and Dan for your touching remembrance of all who serve and have died in service to our country. Many thanks to all the RfL readers for thier support and thoughtful comments. Those of us with loved ones serving in the military are sincerely grateful for all the encourageing, empatheitc and compassionate words that mirror our life experience.

    There is a Memorial Day observance here in St. Louis that is truly a humbling experience for all who participate. Boy Scout troops of all ages honor the fallen by placing a flag on every grave in the Jefferson Barracks Cemetery. There are some graves there that predate the civil war. My husband and I have participated in this good turn for many years with our sons and daughters. It’s amazing to look out and see hundreds of scouts placing the flags in quiet reverence. The small flags wave in the breeze – as far as the eye can see. I have observed scouts praying as they place each flag and read the names and dates carved into each stone.

    We never imagined that one day one of our sons would be a Marine who has spent four and a half of the last six years in Iraq. Little did we know we would attend Memorial Day weekend graduation ceremonies at the Air Force Academy and West Point for two members of our immediate family. Who knew that during his fourth deployment, our son would spend a few days at the largest Air Force base in Iraq while his Air Force fighter pilot cousin was stationed there. (The Marines affectionately refer to this base as Camp Cupcake)

    From the birth of this country to the present day, thousands of others have served in war zones with distinction and honor. Thank you for remembering the sacrifices of all women and men who have gone before us and the many who serve today.

    I am certain your invitaion to the “families of the fallen” is truly unique and great honor which is sincerely appreciated by the families who attend. Let us hope that next year there will be no reason to add more names to the Governor’s guest list.

    Donna Koppy

    • What a tremendous and unselfish gift you and your family is giving to each of us. Thank you for your generosity. And I share your hope that the last name has been added to the Governor’s guest list.

      • Thank you for your kind words Helena. The truth is it’s the men and women who are serve who make the most difficlt of sacrifices. We who wait at home have the comfort of home, food on the table, our friends, family and a warm bed. We can walk around outside with out fear of injury or worse. Unlike memebrs of the miltary, I have the luxury of feeling shocked by the news of an unexpected death of a friend. I don’t have to face the possibility of experiencing such profound grief and loss every minute of the day.
        I know that our support and understanding of the military makes a world of difference for them, and in turn, helps all the folks who wait at home. Please know your words are a wonderful gift and sincerely appreciated.

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