Friday Feature: Honoring the Fallen for Memorial Day

We spoke to Coastline Students & Staff who served or continue to serve their nation in uniform. Read, reflect, and respect those fallen in honor of Memorial Day.

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Monday, May 31st is Memorial Day. If you google ‘Memorial Day’ the odds are very high that one of the first things you see or read won’t be a commemoration for those men and women who have died while serving. No, likely the first thing you’ll see is all the sales, the deals, the ‘three-day-weekend’ articles that proliferate the internet at this time of year. They announce mattress discounts, big savings, opportunities of a lifetime…that come every year and go the same way.

But that’s not what Memorial Day is; that’s not what it’s about; and Memorial Day certainly shouldn’t be reduced to that. Because real people died and still die. Real people, throughout the nation’s history, have seen their own lifetimes, their own opportunities, their own experience and self-hood, cut tragically short, taken too soon.

This point was made clear to me by Chermaine Harrell, Dean of Enrollment Services & Extended Learning at Coastline. Chermaine served in the Marine Corp for 26 years as a Sergeant Major. “Memorial Day is not the pre-Summer holiday. Memorial Day is a somber occasion that comes once a year where we honor the men and women that made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our nation.” Chermaine also talked about what Memorial Day means to her: “It’s a day of remembrance.” She added, “Having participated in Operation Desert Storm, Desert Shield, and Iraqi Freedom, I realize and recognize the sacrifices that service members make.”

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Memorial Day Kit TL

"Time to Reflect..."

This was echoed by another Coastliner who served, Tammy Mason, who has spent seventeen years in the US Army as a Staff Sergeant, both on active duty and reserves. Tammy was deployed twice as well as serving a hardship tour. She’s seen lives lost and become a mother, all while in uniform.

“Memorial Day is important to me,” she said. “It’s not about the deals, getting all the free food. It’s really time to reflect on the blessings that you have as an individual,” blessings that are only possible because people, like Tammy, like Chermaine, and like another Coastliner Emoni Chaplin, serve the country. And only possible because many others, throughout our nation’s history, die doing so.

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"...Composure & Integrity."

Tammy added: “A lot of us go over there and things happen that are unexpected. And sometimes you don’t know whether or not the person to your left or right is going to make it home or if you’re going to make it home.” And to that point, she said: “it makes you appreciate what you have and the freedoms that aren’t free.” This Memorial Day, she’ll be spending time with family, reflecting and thinking about the things that are “great and pure,” the things we fight and serve for.

Emoni Chaplin is a Coastliner currently serving in the US Navy as an electrician. “Serving is a big responsibility and sometimes a risk,” she said. Serving has also made her more adult and given her “a professional stance, composure, and integrity.” For her, Memorial Day means taking time to remember those who lost their lives in service, both in the past and present.

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"Their Todays", featuring Coastline staff & veterans, Michael Toledo & Tom Boscamp.

"...Still a Part of You."

Like Emoni, Tammy Mason knows that serving is not like a typical 9-5 job. “It’s more a mindset.” She said, “as you move up in rank, you become a leader.” As a reservist, Tammy has spent time teaching younger service members as a Unit Supply Specialist. Serving in the military, through its ups and downs, has “added character into every part” of her life. “Even when you take off that uniform, those lessons are still a part of you.” These are just some of the ways those who have served will be spending Memorial Day this year. They’ll be thinking about the friends, colleagues, and strangers that have fallen while wearing their uniforms. And they’d like others, like you and me, to think about that too.

‘It makes you appreciate the freedoms you have that are not free,’ Tammy said. To echo her words: the ability to go outside, breathe fresh air, vote, talk with your friends and loved ones, and now, hopefully, love your loved ones, regardless of who they are, and so much more—these freedoms come at a cost. It’s something to consider as you click ‘Add to Cart’ this weekend and on Monday, May 31, 2021—Memorial Day.

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