Memorial Day brings visions of outdoor family barbeques, filled beaches and the unofficial kickoff to summertime. But it's so much more than that. It's the one day a year we set aside to honor those who willingly died to defend our freedoms in service to this nation.
Families of the fallen don't expect America to approach this day with sadness, however. They truly welcome the celebration of all things red, white and blue. But they hope that while the country enjoys the day, those enjoying the festivities remember the why behind it. It's because of their loved one's sacrifice that we can celebrate it at all.
Krista Simpson Anderson knows all about the loss and also joy that comes with Memorial Day. Her husband, Staff Sergeant Michael Simpson, was a Green Beret. He was so proud to serve and be a part of the 1st Special Forces Group where he was lovingly nicknamed "The Unquiet Professional." On April 27, 2013, on his 20th day of deployment in Afghanistan, nearly a decade to the day from his enlistment in the Army, Simpson sustained critical injuries from an improvised explosive device. He fought to stay alive, saying, "Wife, kids, I love," while being evacuated to the hospital.
His medical team did everything they could to keep him alive; bringing him back each time he coded. Simpson underwent multiple surgeries as they battled to treat his severe injuries. He was medevaced to Germany four days after the blast and his wife and family arrived on May 1, 2013 and he was declared deceased not long after they arrived. He then gave all his viable organs, serving others until his heart stopped beating.
He was only 30 years old.
On the original day set aside as Memorial Day, May 30, 2013, Mike's family said their final goodbye at Arlington National Cemetery. It was in that moment that Krista and a close friend decided to create a nonprofit organization to give back to all of those who had supported the family through their loss.
They called it The Unquiet Professional.
Since its inception, The Unquiet Professional has evolved from a fundraiser to an organization that provides resources and education to those actively serving, veterans, surviving families and Gold Star families. They also do a memorial run, every Memorial Day. The purpose is to spend that mile remembering the lives of the fallen. This year they are honoring Simpson as always but also SFC James Grissom, SSG Timothy McGill, SFC Liam Nevins and Sgt. Joshua Strickland, all who lost their lives within months of each other in 2013 defending their country.
But they were more than just soldiers.
Simpson was a deeply faithful man with an amazing sense of humor who loved his family. Grissom's family shared that he had such a kind spirit and was always finding ways to help others. McGill's sister Megan shared that he never told her he was a Green Beret because he was so humble and such a "gentle giant." Nevins was known for his dimples, blue eyes and his love of pranks. Strickland was remembered by his family for living life passionately and always laughing.
It is the hope of all families of the fallen that the world will remember them this Memorial Day.
"Memorial Day is my favorite holiday of the year. We honor Mike every day, but everyone honors him on Memorial Day. How could you not love that? I want people to celebrate, have barbecues and make fancy cocktails. Celebrate your freedom; that's what he died for," shared Anderson.
You can join in on TUP's virtual memorial run here. Share pictures on social media during your memorial mile and use the hashtags #MotivatedByTheirLives and #TupMile.
This Memorial Day, run for the fallen. Enjoy the day to live as they would want us to, but don't forget to pause and remember.