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Stories of Resilience: National University’s Memorial Day Reflections 

Jessica Manfre Avatar
A Soldier waves an American flag at the top of the Trail of the Fallen, located right outside of West Point, Aug. 25, 2020. The Trail of the Fallen is a hiking trail memorializing fallen Soldiers. (U.S. Army photo by Michelle Eberhart)

A Soldier waves an American flag at the top of the Trail of the Fallen, located right outside of West Point, Aug. 25, 2020. The Trail of the Fallen is a hiking trail memorializing fallen Soldiers. (U.S. Army photo by Michelle Eberhart)

Formerly Decoration Day, Memorial Day traces its roots back to the American Civil War. What started in communities as a way to honor their fallen troops expanded to recognize all who died in service to their country. ​​In 1971, Congress declared it a national holiday to be observed on the last Monday in May, creating a three-day weekend for Americans to pay tribute to the sacrifices of those who have given their lives for freedom.

It is a solemn occasion to recognize the profound impact of sacrifice, embodying the highest ideals of service, duty and patriotism. Through their sacrifice, they exemplify the noblest qualities of humanity, inspiring future generations to uphold the legacy of honor and dedication to a cause greater than oneself.

It serves as a poignant reminder of the immense courage and selflessness exhibited by countless men and women throughout history who laid down their lives to safeguard the freedoms and values cherished by their nation. More than a million Americans have given their lives as a result of wearing the uniform of service. Beyond the sacrifice of our courageous service members is the resilience of the survivors left behind. Today, we tell the stories of our fallen and their survivors, who have honored the losses of their loved ones through incredible work. 

Air Force Captain Jeffrey Braden

The Texas native loved Jesus, his family and flying the F-22 for the Air Force.

Jeffrey Braden in a flight suit

Air Force Sergeant Millard Dee Campbell

This Texas native turned down an offer to play professional baseball to attend college and ultimately, serve his country. 

Millard Dee Campbell in uniform

Army Brigadier General Thomas Carroll

The son of an Army General and Irish immigrant, Tom was a passionate servant-leader who dedicated his life to helping people. 

Thomas Carroll and his wife hug in a posed picture

Marine Corps Corporal Christopher Daud

He raised his right hand to serve, protect and defend this country on Memorial Day in 2013. His family described him as a joyful, energetic and curious boy that turned into a man of unwavering devotion to duty.

Christopher Daud walks in uniform in formation

Army Lieutenant Colonel Jacqueline Lawson Escobar

A passionate leader devoted to her soldiers, she would shatter ceilings and spend her life working to make the world a better place. 

Jacqueline Lawson Escobar poses for a photo in front of a memorial wall, in uniform

Lance Corporal Cody Haley

An incredible son, brother, and friend, Cody was called to serve. His mother honors his legacy by choosing joy.

Navy Command Master Chief Jeffrey Garber

As a passionate Christian, husband and father, serving his sailors gave him purpose. It was a commitment that never wavered. 

Jeffrey Garber hugs his three kids, in uniform

Marine Corps Captain William Griffis, III.

The Naval Academy graduate was a loving husband and father. In an era of draft, he willingly raised his right hand knowing he’d be heading to the Vietnam War. 

William Griffis poses for a photo in uniform, next to a jeep

Coast Guard Commander Scott Hyung-Wook Kim

A proud American who immigrated to the country from South Korea as a child, he loved Jesus, his family and being an officer in the Coast Guard. 

Scott Hyung-Wook Kim smiles for a posed photo in uniform

PFC Steve McCauley

The kind of friend you go AWOL with – well, at least until it’s time to show up. A wonderful person, gone far too young.

Army Green Beret Captain Gilbert Munoz

The Air Force Academy graduate wanted “more mud” and was commissioned into the Army at his graduation ceremony. He loved his family, his wife and being a quiet professional. 

Gilbert Munoz in uniform smiles for a photo

SSGT Michael H. Simpson

A loving husband and father, Mike was a faith-filled man called to serve. His friends knew him as the “Unquiet Professional.”

Marine Corps Corporal Robert Steinbrecher

The fourth-born was raised by his parents and three older sisters. Forever stuck playing Barbies and House, he couldn’t wait to grow up to play G.I. Joe and serve his country.

Robert Steinbrecher poses in his USMC uniform

Army Major Paul C. Voelke

A passionate leader, devoted husband and father, Paul loved being a soldier. He believed in helping people and making the world a better place. 

Paul Voelke smiles for a photograph in his military uniform

The observance of Memorial Day allows us to pause and reflect on the profound debt of gratitude we owe to these heroes and their families, acknowledging the immeasurable price paid for the liberties we enjoy. 

Jessica Manfre is an author and freelance writer for multiple publications. She is a licensed social worker, earning her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Central Florida in 2020. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Northwestern State University. Jessica is the co-founder and CFO of Inspire Up, a 501c3 nonprofit promoting global generosity and kindness through education, empowerment and community building. She is the spouse of an active duty Coast Guardsman and mother of two. When she isn't working, you can find her reading a good book and drinking too much coffee.