Make gratitude king this memorial day.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” - Theodore Roosevelt, Citizenship in a Republic, 1910
On American soil, we enjoy the easy freedom of outdoor barbecues, the liberty to practice free speech openly, and the opportunity to live full lives. Consider the state of foreign nations, the global south, and internal conflict within our own country–we are incredibly lucky for those who have said 'yes' to serving in the United States Military. Today, we humbly honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
To better understand our role as American citizens on Memorial Day, we had the great privilege of speaking with three veterans. Their articulate words will help shed light in anticipation of Memorial Day, give insight into what makes the difference in keeping women and men safe while deployed, and equip each of us with a greater understanding of how to remember and respect our fallen soldiers.
Below are the highlights of our conversation with Shane Walsh, Ben Johnson, and Nate Boyer. Read the full interview here.
As Memorial Day is approaching, we reflect on those who have sacrificed their lives while serving our country for our collective and individual freedom. What is the role of the citizen on Memorial Day, and every day, in serving the friends and families of fallen soldiers? How can we truly honor and serve veterans who have lost their lives?
“It is important to understand that Memorial Day is not Veterans Day. People go out of their way to thank veterans on Memorial Day... we hope to remember with gratitude those who have served and lost their lives. The gratitude felt on Memorial Day should be a natural extension of your ongoing, daily gratitude. It is a true and profound sense of gratitude that moves something deep inside you."—Shane Walsh, Army
“As for remembering specific men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, the best way to honor those who have passed is by the way you live your life. If you are personally connected with someone who lost his or her life, honor them by telling others about them. Think about how you would want to be represented after your passing–not with tears, with laughter and a smile! Share stories and continue to inspire others with their courage and service to our country.”—Nate Boyer, Green Berets
“One of my most amazing experiences overseas was in Australia on Anzac Day (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). On this day, the streets are filled with people celebrating life. It didn’t matter if they served, knew someone who had served, or not. Memorial day is a time to remember the life we have been given, not take it for granted, and celebrate the lives of the many who have fallen.”—Ben Johnson, Army
Service for our country entails incredible danger and sacrifice. When you were in the field, what made the difference in good (or poor) equipment? What do you now value in your own gear?
Reliability and comfort.
“As a tank commander and leader, I was responsible for the lives of 15 men at all times. Soldiers’ lives rely on equipment as much as anything else. Today, as a husband and father of two boys, I value two things. Number one, I value reliability. Number two, I value comfort. With limited time left with my sons before they head off to college in a few years, I want to be able to create memories that are meaningful and rich. I can’t do that if I’m fixing gear that has broken.”—Shane Walsh, Army
Functionality and warmth.
“The best gear I ever owned in the field was a Woobie, hands down. A fluffy down blanket makes the perfect survival gear whether you are cold or hot, wet or dry. It is perfect. It’s similar to a Kammok product, actually. Shopping for gear now, I care less about how cool it looks and more about functionality. Am I going to be able to use it, rely on it, and trust it the way I need to?”—Ben Johnson, Army
Simplicity and comfort.
“For me, gear is about simplicity and comfort. Some guys liked extra gear and cool gadgets, but the odds of using “cool gadgets” were low, they slowed men down, and distracted them. When it came to making choices for clothing, gloves, eyewear, etc.–my goal was strictly to simplify and stay comfortable. In my traveling and backpacking today, I still stick with this mentality. Just recently, my travels took me to Central America. I slept in a hammock the entire time. It was easy because the hammock could ball up, pack small, and it enabled me to comfortably sleep off the ground, away from bugs and snakes.”—Nate Boyer, Green Berets
The foundation of Kammok rests on the values of adventure, community and love. Can you speak to one or all of these values and what they mean in your life today?
“I fiercely believe in the idea of servant leadership. Those who seek first to serve have the best outcomes in life, and not just professionally. This is community and love. In seeking first to serve, we believe we create great outcomes for ourselves.”—Shane Walsh, Army
“Adventure means there is always something new to find in every day. Each morning is a new day of my life, I am alive and well. The small things are the adventure of life. Through my time spent traveling in other countries, the gifts I was given by people who had very few material possessions was incredible. Love yourself, and give yourself away to others.”—Ben Johnson, Army
“Community and love go hand in hand while in service. Everything you do is about the man or woman on your left or right. This is our community. If we don’t have people with us, there is no service element. Service has nothing to do with doing things alone. From service, love is developed. There were soldiers I served with who I didn’t always like, but I loved them. You have to love them.”—Nate Boyer, Green Berets
More About Our Veterans
Shane Walsh is a native Texan and the son of a Vietnam veteran. He received his commission from the Army ROTC program at Boston College and served as an M1A1 tanker with the First Infantry Division at Fort Riley, KS. Shane is now a Founder and General Partner at Arena Growth Partners, an Austin-based venture capital firm investing in Texas-based early-stage growth technology companies. Shane’s partner Jim is also an Army veteran, and their firm has a stated affinity for veteran-owned and veteran-led businesses.
Ben Johnson, the trainer and founder of Fobit Fitness, is a Certified Trainer and active duty Army. Fobit sets up in area parks and designs targeted fitness regimens including everything from circuit training, cardio, and weight training - the right combination to meet YOUR individual fitness goals! Ben is currently in 143rd INF (ABN) Regiment as a Platoon Sergeant, and has 17 years of service with deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
After joining the US Army in 2005, Nate Boyerearned the coveted Green Beret in December, 2006. He was stationed in Okinawa throughout most of 2007 with 1st Special Forces Group. In April of 2008, Nate was deployed with ODA 0324 10th Special Forces Group to Iraq and served his tour of duty until January of 2009. He then served tours in Afghanistan from April-August, 2013 (Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan) and from April-August, 2014 (ODA 3116 3rd Special Forces Group). In addition to his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Boyer completed a number of JCET (Joint Command Exchange Training) Missions to Israel (2009), Bulgaria (2011), and Greece (2012). A five-year player for the Texas Longhorns, Boyer served as the No. 1 long snapper on PAT/FG’s his last three seasons and also handled punt-snapping duties during 2013-14. He played in 39 career games. Boyer was named 2012-13 Big 12 Sportsperson of the Year and in 2012 became the first-ever recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).
Have your Memorial Day barbecue, and eat it too, with humble gratitude, rich storytelling, and reflective celebration. Thanks for reading, we'll be back here with more stories next week. Enjoy the upcoming holiday, and tell 5 people why you're grateful for the life you have.
Until next time!
Written by Grace Mueller, Kammok Marketing