Leading in Remembrance


Welcome back to the world of work after your Memorial Day celebration. From time to time being the “First Gentleman” offers some extraordinary experiences. One of those is attending the Governor’s “Families of the Fallen” gathering on the weekend before Memorial Day. This year about 50 families came to the residence for breakfast on Thursday to remember their lost loved ones and to find solace in their shared experience.

Perhaps there has never been a war that was without controversy. But it is certainly true in the age of the modern media, and with full exposure of the decisions made by governmental leaders, that wars will be questioned. The terrible miscalculations and the immoral misrepresentations have certainly made this so in the war in Iraq. Some of the family members who gathered here last week might think that these lines are cruel, or worse that they undermine the supreme value of the sacrifice their young men laid down. But I mean to exalt, not diminish their sacrifice.

We all live lives filled with moral uncertainty. We pursue goals that seem valuable, but it is never clear we are entirely on track, and we are always making sacrifices and judgment calls: family versus work, speed versus thoroughness, justice versus mercy, skepticism versus faith. What is awesome about the fallen heroes is that they signed up to serve, knowing the great risks involved, and then gave up everything, quite literally everything. And there was never a guarantee of certainty.

The most fervent desire of the families I spoke with last week was that their sons not be forgotten. So perhaps today when you pursue with total commitment something that you’re not entirely sure of, or for which you think others will criticize you, remember those who gave everything. They believed in principles and in country. Each one of us — especially those of us who are working to make a whole new Michigan — may feel small, a petty part, and even unsure of the value of the things we do. At such times, we ought to remember the fallen and the families that grieve for them, and do with total commitment that which we believe needs to be done.

Do that and you will . . .

Lead with your best self,


  • I grieve for our state and the condition it is in. The lack of jobs, the lack of funds for public program just makes this time in our life one of sadness and sorry. We continue to put the burden on the back of people who breaking down under the stress of caring the load. Our public schools are suffering great loss due to budget cuts. We look around and see crime is up because jobs are down. Yes I understand there are many who loss someone in the USA on a daily bases due to Bush stupidity, But we are loss a state (one in which I love) with every job loss, every student who is not receiving the tools they need to be successful. We can spend billions of dollars fighting a meaning list war over Oil, and there is not an outcry for the lost of a state or a child being left behind. It is time to end the war and build the state back to the promenade statues we belong. One child at a time.

  • I write this comment as the mother of a 26 year old Marine, Sgt. Timothy Koppy. Tim came home today on his pre-deployment leave. He will be returning to Iraq for his fourth deployment sometime in August.
    My son joined the Marine Corp as part of the early entry program for High School juniors and seniors. He wanted to serve his coutry and be one of the few and the proud about two years prior to 9-11. When his friends went to college he was away at boot camp. Our only communication during those three months was one letter from him. He was fortunate enough to have a year and a half of training experience before he was sent to Iraq as a Grunt on the ground in January before the war.
    When Tim called me to say he was being deployed (and didn’t have much time to talk) I asked him if he was scared. I don’t know what I expected him to say but I’ll never forget his reply. “I am worried about the three new boots who joined my unit today Mom. I need to watch out for them, they don’t have any experience”. (New boots are the fresh grads sent straight to their unit from basic training)
    Despite all the hardships since then, the lack of basic things such as food, water and shelter, tne commitment ro serve among the troops remains strong. The boots on the ground live with their Iraq war experience every day, no matter where they are at any given time. Inspite of all the things that are wrong my son says most Iraqi people are happy the Americans are there. The troops have nade improvements in the infrastructure and the lives of people in Iraq. Schools have been rebult and both boys and girls attend now. It is the minority that cause the problems and violence there. This is not the kind of thing we hear from any of the people in government but it is what so many who serve have seen over time.
    Thank you for all your efforts to honor those who serve and remember the lives of all who have gone before us. Our military men and women would never seek attention for themselves but are deserving of our grattitude and respect for their sacrifices. Their service is given freely with the most honorable intentions. Our miltary forces are composed of volunteers. They desreve more than a passing mention on the news that “eight soldiers died today in fighting in Iraq”. Or that May has been the bloodiest month in the war this year.

    Donna Koppy

  • I have been thinking about some of your observations about Memorial Day, and would like to share a conflict which I experienced regarding war and its consequences. The first thing I think of when I read of another young person’s death in Iraq is what the family must be going through and what a great personal loss it is. A whole generation is being wiped out, for what? That is not to demean the importance of anyone’s loss. Anyone’s death diminishes me, and I can only imagine what the pain must be like.
    But what is the greater message that the losses in Iraq send to me? That any war is deadly, and unnecessary, and a symptom that our country has gone way off the track. As a member of PEACEXPEACE, a global women’s group, I walked in the Memorial Day parade in Ferndale, behind the banner of peace, symbolized by a large dove. The reception by the crowd was overwhelmingly positive, with standing applause, cheers, thumbs up and peace signs. Rather than interpreting our walk as opposing our troops, which some would like us to believe, the community saw it for what we meant it to be – the statement that the only way to stop war is to support and live peace.

    • Hi Mary,
      As a parent of a Marine, who just left on his fourth deployment, I can tell you that the troops want peace. They hope their efforts to establish a peace in an area where religous violence and conflict have existed since 527 will be successful. The men and women in the military have a conflict with people when the message is the military is unnecessary and the folks in uniform are bad people who promote war. Let’s hope people have finally figured out that we can do two things at once:
      1.Honor, respect and support the people who sacrifice and serve their country.
      2.Work for lasting peace in the world.

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