In my thoughts this Memorial Day

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col Todd A. Jaax
  • 58th Fighter Squadron commander

This year we celebrate the 140th anniversary of Memorial Day, a day to honor all those American servicemen who gave their life in the defense of freedom. 

Memorial Day differs vastly from Veterans Day and the recently celebrated Armed Forces Day. Veterans Day pays tribute to every Veteran who has served our great nation, while Armed Forces Day recognizes those serving today. Memorial Day asks us to stop and remember our heroes, our wingmen, our brothers in arms, and every American patriot who paid the ultimate price for the freedom and democracy we all hold so dear. 

This Memorial Day is especially poignant for me, the men and women of the 58th Fighter Squadron and the Nomad family as a whole. In February, the 58th FS lost one of our pilots to tragic aircraft accident over the Gulf of Mexico. First Lt. Ali "Kong" Jivanjee perished doing what he loved, flying and defending his country. Ali represented everything that is good about America. He was the son of Pakistani immigrants who came to this country because of what it had to offer...hope. As I think of the Jivanjee family's love for America in spite of their tragic loss I'm reminded of a comment made by President Ronald Reagan many years ago about America being different than any other place in the world. He said that anybody can be an American, and people have come from all over the world to be Americans. But you can go to Italy and never be Italian; you can go to France, and you will never be French; and you can go to Germany, and you will never be German. But anybody can come to the United States and be an American. And he is right about that. 

During Ali's funeral in Tampa, his father Mehboob, or Bob as he had us call him, so aptly summarized his and Ali's love for this country. He said, "We love America. I'm proud to be a father and an American. This is our land, and we love America. If I had more sons, I would give them to this country, too." 

On Monday I will remember my heroes, those who gave everything so my family and I can enjoy the life we have. I will remember heroes like Ali, men who gave up everything so that I can live in a world of endless opportunities, filled with freedoms and liberties many people in the world will never have the chance to experience and flourish in. I ask every one of you to do the same. Let us not forget the sacrifices made by so many who defend the ideals that we all cherish. Take a moment this Monday, May 26 to give thanks to them for their ultimate sacrifice.