Army veteran reflects on meaning of Memorial Day: Honoring the sacrifice

For many, the last Monday in May is the unofficial start of summer. Pools are open, backyard BBQs are fired up, and the school year is winding down. But Memorial Day is about much more than that. It's about the men and the women who died protecting our country.

As Will Long marks Memorial Day with family at the Dearborn Memorial Day Parade, he can't help but shed a tear.

"It's always hard remembering," said Long, reflecting on his time serving his country.

Long started out in the army in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968, and then he went back from 1968 to 1975 with the Department of Defense, the embassy, and the Defense Attaché Office. He was there just before the fall of Saigon, and he got out just a few weeks before and flew out to Bangkok. It was an adventure that brought heartache.

"I spent too long. I spent seven years in Vietnam," Long shared. "In and out of uniform from the early days until the end, trying to make a difference, but it didn't end well."

Decades later, Long still sheds tears for those who never made it back on U.S. soil. 

"Remember those who gave a lot more than I did," he said. "We're lucky we're here, getting old and gray. A lot of the ones who are forever young... God bless you, thank you."

Long hopes people will pay more attention, and not just on Memorial Day, to the sacrifice many have made to keep Americans free and safe. 

"I'm afraid it's been largely forgotten along with a lot of things I grew up with," he said.

But as the veteran watched the parade in Dearborn, where his grandkids marched, he knows his service and the service of those who never made it home made it a better tomorrow for all.