The meaning of Memorial Day

For many families, Memorial Day is a somber day of remembrance.

I don’t pretend to understand how devastating it is for military families who lose a loved one. Luckily all of my brothers came home, and my son too.

The closest I came to experiencing it (or ever want to) was in September 2014.

My son was stationed on the USS Carl Vinson as an F-18 Fighter pilot. He was tasked with leaving his family; his wife and two small daughters, to put himself in harms way in service of our country.

Noah’s squadron – The Fighting Redcocks VFA-22
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Philip Wagner, Jr./Released

During the 10-month long deployment, tragedy struck too often and each time we got a call. But one call in particular, I will never forget.

On September 12, 2014, John and I were out for lunch at our favorite burrito place when my cell phone rang. Ever since Noah deployed; whenever my daughter-in-law called, my heart would skip a beat for a second, and I would answer immediately.

I knew full well there could be a chance we would be getting “that call.”

When I answered, I could tell by her voice the news wasn’t good. The first words out of her mouth were, “Noah’s okay, but…”

I listened as she told me two F-18’s went down off the Carl Vinson and a pilot in Noah’s airwing was lost.

There is a phone chain that is implemented when this sort of thing happens. All communications from the ship stop except for the one call to alert the top of the chain of the incident.

Each person then calls their list and it trickles down to family members. I am the first on Amber’s list.

It is a brilliant system that alerts the family back home before reading about it on the news; and with a tightening in my chest, I stayed calm as Amber gave me the details she knew.

When I hung up the phone, I started crying.

I couldn’t stop crying. It was the kind of sobbing where I couldn’t catch my breath and it hurt to my core. Sitting at that table with my half-eaten lunch in front of me, all I could do was try to breathe through uncontrollable tears.

John held me and kept saying, “It’s not Noah, honey. It’s not Noah.”

When I could catch my breath I said, “He is someone’s Noah.”

That was the closest I’ve come to understand what some families have experienced because someone they loved decided to put themselves in harm’s way for our country.

So this Memorial Day my heart goes out to Nathan Poloski’s family, and all of the other families who know the true meaning of sacrifice.

They will never be forgotten.

Please add a comment with a name, squadron or memory of anyone you would like to honor today.

In Memory of Lt. Nathan Poloski
In Memory of Lt. Cmdr. James Johnson and Lt. Caleb King
In Memory of Capt. Jake Frederick

Reader Comments

  1. Amy Kennedy

    Oh Loretta, there are no words. Thank you for your post, and to your son thank you from all of my heart for serving. And my deepest condolences to the family of Nathan Poloski, for their loss. And to all who paid a price so dearly. Never forgotten.

  2. Jane Laackman Simons

    My heart breaks for those who loved and knew Nathan Poloski and to all the mother’s who have gotten ‘that call’. I appreciate you sharing your story to remind us that our fallen heroes are all somebody’s Noah, or in my case somebody’s Jared or Ben. 🙏

    • Loretta Sayers
      Loretta Sayers

      Jane, thank you so much for reading this post…and your comment.
      They are all somebody’s Noah, or Jared or Ben…


  3. Brynne

    Our youngest son’s best friend and next door neighbor for many years — James Wolf — 21, of Scottsbluff, Nebraska. 🇺🇸
    Wolf was in a convoy in Mosul, Iraq when an improvised explosive device was detonated. He was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 52nd Engineer Battalion, Fort Carson, Colorado. Died on November 6, 2003.

  4. Barbie Holmes

    Thank you for sharing this poignant reminder about why we recognize Memorial Day. I was an “Air Force Brat”, my father manned radar stations along the NORAD Dew Line in Canada when he returned from his stint in WW2. He served six years as a front line gunner- light infantry in WW2, 1939 until the formal surrender of Japan. (Canada went to war with Britain at the onset). I pay honor to him- a teenager who had never spent a night away from the family farm and returned six years later a changed man, one who suffered a lifetime of PTS, yet remained in the military until he retired. Even then, he returned to work at the air base as a civilian until he was 65 years old. We will remember them.

    • Loretta Sayers
      Loretta Sayers

      Thank you so much for sharing your dad with me, Barbie. Can you even imagine what these young men and women went through? And they carry it with them for the rest of their lives.

      We will remember them.

  5. Jodie

    It’s so good for us to really try to remember what this day is really about. I’m terrible because it hasn’t affected me so I don’t always think about it this way. But I had one woman reach out to say it’s supposed to be a somber day. And she’s absolutely right.

    • Loretta Sayers
      Loretta Sayers

      It is a somber occasion. We forget about these things when advertising is showing us an American flag and BBQ’s and picnics. Thanks for reading, Jodie. Xx

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