You know what I love about military life? I love that I can walk into a room with spouses I’ve never met, from every branch of service, and leave that room with brand new friends.
It happened again yesterday. I received an invite to rehearsals for the National Memorial Day Concert—an amazing opportunity! I’d see the show before the rest of the country, and even have a chance to talk to the talent if I got really lucky.
I was the first spouse to arrive (as always- color me anxious, but I can’t stand to be late!) so I channeled all the confidence I could, and walked right in. For the first hour, I sat in the front row as Gary Sinise and Joe Montega rehearsed, sat in the row with me, lost their cell phones, and otherwise proved they are normal people just like me (hey, People Magazine dedicates an entire spread to proving this, so I can’t be alone in my delusional idol worship).
Before long, other spouses began arriving. There were a couple Army wives, a Navy spouse, a Marine Corps spouse, and me, the lone Air Force wife. We immediately began bonding over our shared experiences, and started nerding out about the day and the performers in front of us.
This concert is a Memorial Day service intended to remind Americans of the sacrifice of our service members lost at war. It didn’t take long for stories of deployments and heartache to start pouring out of the women I was with. We sat together and listened to Trace Adkins sing “Arlington.” Other than the production crew, it was just us, the empty lawn of the Capitol, and Arlington off in the distance.
I am not from DC. I was not raised as a military brat. I am not a Gold Star Wife. But I am a military spouse, and as I sat there with these women I barely knew, I realized how lucky I am to count them as my sisters in the journey. One of them turned to me and told me how this song reminds her of just how fragile life can be, and how fortunate we are to have our spouses safe and sound today.
As the performers came off stage, they made time to stop and speak with us.
Mike Love of the Beach Boys told us about the bracelet he never takes off- a bracelet given to him by a Vietnam veteran who told him their music got him through the war.
Trace Adkins explained that he doesn’t perform “Arlington” to just any crowd. That song is sacred. He treats it with the “upmost reverence” because it’s the story of someone’s son- a young man who grew up to be a Marine like his father, and grandfather before him. That Marine is now in Arlington.
In the Memorial Day production, Epatha Merkerson will tell the story of a Gold Star mom. With tears streaming down her face, she told us today was the first day that she has been to Arlington Cemetery, and seeing the families reminded her of just how important this occasion is.
Alfie Boe, a Broadway star spoke to us longest. He looked us each in the eye, and shook our hands like we had all been friends for years. He explained that this experience opened his eyes to what military families go through. “Not just the service men but the wives and the husbands of those people. It’s not just the service members who have to have courage and strength. Their wives and husbands are strong and courageous too. My heart goes out to them”
Memorial Day is a hard day for many of us. It’s easy to feel like the rest of the world just doesn’t get it. Radio ads promote “THE BIGGEST SALE EVER” while our friends, brothers and sisters gather in cemeteries to mourn their dead. It’s easy to feel so alone in our grief and sadness.
Tonight’s Memorial Day Concert is a way to bring the nation together. Every performer I spoke with is here for all the right reasons. They get it. And tonight, when the concert airs on PBS, the nation will gather around their TVs and they will take a moment to mourn with us.
We are not alone.
Tune in tonight at 8pm EST. Together we’re stronger.
Posted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager