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Honoring Our Heroes This Memorial Day

As we approach Memorial Day, a time that for many signifies the unofficial start of summer, it’s essential to pause and reflect on its true meaning. For us at Slaphappy Hemp Company, this day holds a profound significance, rooted in personal loss and unwavering patriotism. John is sharing an article he wrote for the Hermann Advertiser Courier, which perfectly captures this sentiment.

The True Test of Patriotism this Memorial Day Reflections From A Veteran

John’s remembrance bracelet worn since 2011.

In 1994, I made a life-altering decision. I realized that Lindenwood College wasn't the right path for me, and instead, I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserves. After two years, I was drawn to active duty, but due to President Clinton's military drawdown, I faced my first bureaucratic hurdle. As a prior service member, I wasn't allowed to go on active duty with the Marines. However, a glimmer of hope surfaced in the prospect of becoming a Navy Seabee. As a Marine, the idea of joining the Navy - or becoming a 'squid' as we Marines would say - was a tough pill to swallow. Yet, to my surprise, I discovered my calling in construction while simultaneously serving my country.

Until the events of September 11th, I perceived Memorial Day as most Americans did - the unofficial start of summer, a day for barbecues, sales, and relaxation. However, after the towers fell and I completed my first tour in Iraq, my perspective drastically shifted. Operating in an environment where the enemy aimed to demolish our work, where indirect mortar fire added an unanticipated twist to the normal job site complications, was a sobering experience. Phone calls home were interrupted by explosions, and I found myself masking the reality, explaining the sounds as mere truck backfires to my wife, in an attempt to alleviate her fears.

Two days after our first deployment to Iraq, we received the devastating news that NMCB-14, the unit who had just relieved ours, had lost seven service members. These were individuals we'd joked and laughed with not long ago, exchanging casual warnings about mortar rounds. By the time I left the Seabees, I had been fortunate not to lose anyone I had spent significant time serving with. Unfortunately, that changed in 2011 when my friend BUC (SCW/FMF) Raymond Border was killed by an IED in Afghanistan. The moment I heard the news, it felt like the world had stopped, even though, in reality, America kept on moving, seemingly oblivious to Ray’s sacrifice and the profound loss suffered by his family.

Over the past two decades of the War on Terror, Missouri has lost 56 brave souls, the last one being Jared Schmitz, who tragically fell during the Kabul airport attack in August 2021. These losses underscore the true costs of war, borne by a small fraction of American families. No measure of gratitude can adequately honor their sacrifices, but that doesn't absolve us from trying. Veterans returning home often grapple with physical injuries, mental health issues like PTSD, and the struggle of transitioning back into civilian life. The VA's response to these complex issues is often a cocktail of pills - pills for pain, pills for the mind, and more pills to counteract the adverse effects of the first set.

Regrettably, many Americans, particularly those without personal connections to the military, have become detached from the sacrifices made by our servicemen and women. It's just something they see on the TV, another news story, another statistic. But we must remember that behind every number is a life, a family, and a story of sacrifice.

As we observe Memorial Day, it's crucial that we pledge more than just lip service to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. We need to ask ourselves: Are we worthy of their sacrifice, or do we need to do better? So, while you're enjoying your time off work, take a moment to reflect on the gift these service members have given us.

We must challenge ourselves to strive for better, for it is a debt we owe to the courageous men and women who risked their lives to safeguard our freedoms. We owe it to Jared Schmitz, the 55 other fallen Missourians, and the countless veterans who return home, forever transformed by their experiences. This Memorial Day, let's confront the troubling question: Have we, as a nation, forgotten their sacrifice, allowing the gap between the civilian and military worlds to widen to the point where we no longer recognize their service?

In honoring those who have given so much, we must also seize this moment to strive towards becoming better Americans. It's a call to treat our fellow citizens with respect, kindness, and understanding. Remember, we are all beneficiaries of the freedoms they fought for, and we share the responsibility to uphold the principles that make our nation great. It's a day to introspect: Are we doing enough to honor these brave souls? Are we living up to the ideals they defended? If the answer is no, then we must rise to the challenge, pledge to be better Americans, neighbors, friends, and work collectively to build a nation that genuinely honors those who have given their all for our liberty. Because we are all Americans, and we all have the power to effect change.

This Memorial Day, we at Slaphappy Hemp Company urge everyone to reflect on the sacrifices made by our servicemen and women. We owe it to them to strive for a better nation, to bridge the gap between the civilian and military worlds, and to honor their legacy by living up to the ideals they defended.

We remember and honor Builder Chief SCW/FMF Raymond Border who lost his life in Afghanistan 2011.

We remember and honor the Seabees from NMCB-14 who lost their lives in Iraq in 2004:

Equipment Operator 3rd Class Christopher Dickerson

Hull Maintenance 2nd Class Jason Dwelley

Builder 2nd Class Michael Anderson

Equipment Operator 2nd Class Trace Dossett

Construction Mechanic 2nd Class Scott McHugh

Builder 2nd Class Robert Jenkins

Steelworker 3rd Class Ronald Ginther​

We remember and honor the sailors lost in the USS Cole bombing on October 12, 2000. This tragedy holds a special place in Kara’s heart due to her personal connections and experiences in response to the attack. The attack killed:

Lt. j.g. Andrew Triplett

ETC Richard D. Costelow

EW1 Kevin S. Rux

HT2 Kenneth E. Clodfelter

EN2 Mark I. Nieto

EW2 Ronald S. Owens

OS2 Timothy L. Saunders

MS3 Ronchester M. Santiago

MSSN Lakeina M. Francis

ISSN Timothy L. Gauna

SMSN Cherone L. Gunn

ISSN James R. McDaniels

SN Lakiba N. Palmer

ENFN Joshua L. Parlett

FN Patrick H. Roy

FN Gary Swenchonis Jr.

SN Craig B. Wibberley

We remember and honor those we have lost since coming home. We remember and honor Kelly Daugherty (NMCB-1) and those we have lost to cancer. Their sacrifices are not forgotten, and we pledge to honor them by working towards a better, more united nation.

You won’t see any Memorial Day sales from us. Instead, we ask you to remember those who gave all—not to get you down, but so you may live life to its fullest, worthy of their sacrifice.

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