When I got the invitation to attend the rehearsal of the 2017 National Memorial Day Concert on the West Lawn of the US Capitol, I was super excited! Then I realized who was among the star-studded cast of actors, singers and song-writers that would be performing in front of me, and I went from excited to crazy fan-girl in seconds!
For the past 28 years, PBS has inspired viewers through their special National Memorial Day Concert to honor and remember our nation’s men and women in uniform. The dress rehearsal is usually for press and a few select military spouse bloggers were invited to take part in this day AND meet with the celebrities there!
It was a long day, but we were kept in good company with a handful of other Mil-Spouse writers and all became fast friends. As we met each celebrity, we asked them to give a shout out to some of our favorite people….YOU! Here’s what they had to say:
“Thank You to all our military families. Thank you for your sacrifice, your patience your service. We love you very much.” –Laurence Fishburne
John Ondraskin (Five for Fighting) said that he understands “sometimes it’s harder on you (military families) than your military member”. He even wrote a song about it called “Two Lights” and said “It’s not just about Memorial Day or 4th of July…it’s about EVERY day.”
Auli’I Cravalho (Moana) knows what it’s like to have family members deployed. “I know what it’s like….I get it. So thank you”. At the tender age of 16, the Moana star has been tasked with performing the National Anthem for this year’s Memorial Day concert for the first time in her life. As we watched the rehearsals, it became clear that she would give the Star Spangled Banner the justice it so deserves.
Mary McCormack (West Wing) was brought to tears when she said “I’m thankful. I have three daughters and we don’t have that worry that you do. It’s a huge burden.”
Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty) said “It’s so easy to wallow in your own misery but when you see these families just fighting puts everything into perspective.”
John Ortiz (Fast and Furious 6) recognized the integral role that military families play in his freedom. “Thank you for your love, faith and perseverance allows us the life that we live.”
Russell Watson (You Raise Me Up) gave a very poignant account of what it’s like for military families some days. “Sometimes negative thoughts can take over your life. Somedays you might not want to get out of bed.” He goes on to say “To all the military families out there and all the military members serving overseas: There’s one word that I can think of which is crucial to anybody when your loved one may be under threat to losing their life. HOPE. Stay strong through those difficult times until they can get back into the arms of the people they care about.”
Afterward, he asked me a question that I wasn’t sure how to answer. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked this question before. He said “It must be tough…do you worry?” My answer was just to say “like you said, I just try to stay positive and do what I can do…we all do.”
This concert and the stars that we had the opportunity to talk to, is a completely humbling experience. I didn’t realize that so many people really do still care and appreciate beyond measure what our service members do. It definitely gave me a gut-check this memorial day. There’s still work to be done, but in the meantime, I’ll take the insight and appreciation that these celebrities and everyone in attendance and stop to recognize those who put themselves in harm’s way and those who gave all so we can remain free.
Watch the 2017 National Memorial Day Concert Live on Sunday, May 28 starting at 8:00 p.m. EST. You can also check out your local PBS channel at the same time as well. For BONUS POINTS and a chance to potentially connect with some of the featured celebs, take to social media using the hashtag #MemDayPBS