We must honor their memory

Memorial Day weekend — it’s time to pull out the barbecue pits and enjoy the first weekend of the summer season. Or maybe it’s time to gas up the car and hit the open road, along with millions of other Americans savoring a three-day weekend.

It is important to remember in the midst of celebration the real purpose of this holiday weekend is — to honor those who have given their lives so we may experience a free society.

At a ceremony at West Hills Elementary School, students and faculty members took a moment to remember a man who spent just three weeks in Bremerton but gave enough to last a lifetime.

Todd J. Bryant, a West Point graduate of 2002, gave up a summer between semesters to participate in the college’s Service America program. The program places West Point cadets with AmeriCorps programs.

Bryant ended up at West Hills Elementary, where he tutored the children in reading. While he was there, he did more than tutor: he inspired the students to do their best work; he connected with them on a level they could understand.

Bryant touched the childrens’ lives, and, in turn, they touched his heart.

At the end of his tenure, Bryant went back to his home town of Pittston, Pa., and told his mother that, based on his experience at West Hills Elementary, he wanted to be a teacher after his Army hitch was over.

Unfortunately, that was not meant to be.

On Oct. 31 last year, Bryant was serving as an Army Armor officer in Iraq when the Humvee he was riding in hit a landmine. He was killed.

This proves that those men and women who have sacrificed aren’t just faces and names; they are our brothers and sisters, someone’s daughter or son, someone’s mother or father. They are humans who have all left a legacy of one kind or another.

At a mere 23 years of age, Bryant had already touched souls, inspired children and lived a full lifetime.

It is those like Bryant we must pause to remember this Memorial Day.

Those who live full, sacrifice much and, unfortunately, die young.

This Memorial Day, as we celebrate with our backyard barbecues and road trips, we must pause to honor the reason for our three-day weekend.

Without their sacrifice, we could not enjoy our freedoms.

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