WASHINGTON (7News) — Memorial Day, for many, is a day off from work, a chance to connect with family and friends.
But Memorial Day for thousands of others, is a painful reminder.
“Memorial Day is so important to surviving families it’s very easy for us to get caught up in our everyday lives and if there aren’t men and women to serve like our spouses did, sons and daughters and siblings we wouldn’t have the freedoms we have, we only live in the freest country in the world because we have people willing to stand up and sacrifice," said Traci Voelke.
Traci should know because not a day goes by that she doesn’t think of her high school sweetheart that she ended up marrying and having two sons. Paul Voelke attended West Point and served as a Major in the United States Army. He deployed five times, and on his fifth deployment, he was killed in an accident.
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A day Traci can never forget.
“The doorbell kept ringing and my children were outside with their uncle and I thought it was my kids trying to tell me to 'hurry up mom we want to go' and I was getting ready. I opened the door to tell them to 'back off and I’d be ready any moment' and then I saw the officers at the door. You immediately know what that means. They asked if they could come in and I said 'no' and shut the door, 'cause I need[ed] a moment to process what was about to happen," Traci said.
That was ten years ago, and now her sons are grown men. One is even following in his father’s footsteps by serving in his college’s R.O.T.C. program with thoughts of making the Army a career.
As for Traci, she is now just getting around to organizing all of her late husband’s things to consolidate them and put them in just one place in the house.
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“We move forward but we never move on, so we have to move forward with our grief and their memories," Traci said.
She is hopeful that this Memorial Day people enjoy the day off, spend time with their families, and pause to remember why they are getting the day off. To remember the fallen who sacrificed everything so everyone can enjoy living in a free country.
“All of us should pause and reflect on those sacrifices and remember our loved ones and say their names, so they are not forgotten," Traci added.