It’s not about cookouts. It’s not about loading the kids and dogs into the car for a long weekend at the lake. It’s not about having an extra morning to sleep in.

It’s about a young man named Charles Saxton, who left his home in Maumee, Ohio in July of 1942 to serve his country. A year and a month later, he was killed in North Africa. I never knew Charles, he was my mother’s brother, and he died nine years before I was born.  

It’s about another young man, named Ronald L. Babcock, whose helicopter was shot down over Laos in 1971. Pilots in other aircraft at the scene reported seeing Lieutenant Babcock and his observer, Sergeant First Class Fred Mooney, jump from the wreckage of their helicopter and run for cover, but they were shot by enemy troops in the tree line before they could make it. The fighting was so intense that their bodies were never recovered. Ron was a pilot with my own unit, the 1st Cavalry. I wore his MIA bracelet for so many years that it eventually disintegrated on my wrist.  

It’s about a redheaded kid with freckles on his face, whose name I never knew. But I held his hand and talked to him while he bled out on a muddy trail on his second day with the unit. 

Memorial Day isn’t about cookouts, or ballgames, or whatever it is most Americans will be doing today. It’s about these three young men, and over a million other young men who have given their lives since those first Minutemen squared off with the British at Lexington and Concord. It’s because of them that we can enjoy those cookouts, and ballgames and camping trips with the kids and dogs.

Take a few minutes to remember them today, and say a prayer of thanks.

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20 Comments on It’s Not About Cookouts

  1. Greg White says:

    Well said, Nick.

    And thank you for your service to our country!

  2. Glenna Watson says:

    Thank you. May we never forget or take for granted the sacrifice that has been and is still being made that we might live in a free, albeit not perfect, country. We honor those who have given their lives for our freedom and pray for those who are still fighting to keep our freedom.

  3. George Stoltz says:

    Wow. Very powerful message, Nick. You have described what Memorial Day should be about. Thank you and thank you for your service.

  4. Janna says:

    Thank you Nick!

  5. Dave B. says:

    I too am a Viet Nam veteran an am so very glad to see our country backing our Veterans today. When we got back from Viet Nam, many veterans were spit on at the airports and called baby killers. Times were different then and it was popular for people to be against the war. They however should not have treated the veterans that way. I’m glad today is different. Thank you fellow veterans!

  6. Very well said! And very important message! Thank you all fellow veterans!!

  7. Steve says:

    I respectfully disagree, Nick.
    Memorial Day weekend IS about “cookouts, or ballgames, or whatever it is most Americans will be doing today.” As long as we recognize and remember the reason we have the freedom to participate in those activities.
    I see and hear lots of stories of the brave and fallen heroes and am proud to have even known a few.
    Why not do both? Solemnly remember their sacrifice AND celebrate the resulting liberties we enjoy because of them.

  8. Connie Braidh says:


  9. Dorothy Eisen says:

    I would like to add that there are young women who have given their lives also. My sister being one. We fly our flag proudly!

  10. butterbean carpenter says:

    Howdy B.N.,

    THANK YOU, FOR SERVING OUR COUNTRY!! Thank you, for reminding us
    what Memorial Day is really all about.. Thank you, for being there for that young hero. If not for the returning warriors reminding us of what the horrors of war are really like; none of the ‘stay-at-homes’ would remember it.. The ones who were there and saw and came home to tell and keep reminding us that FREEDOM ISN’T FREE;IT IS PURCHASED WITH THE RED BLOOD OF FREEDOM HONORING PEOPLE, WHETHER AMERICAN OR ALLIED!!!


  11. Elaine & Mike says:

    Thanks to all the brave people who defend this great country of ours. It is because of these folks that we get to celebrate our freedom. Let us not forget the ones who made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Not only the troops today but for all of them from all the conflicts and wars. Bring our troops home now.

  12. JanWhite says:

    Nick, I’ve heard many of you heartbreaking and chilling stories. Some were funny and amazing. But they were all a look into a time I was a part of, but not a PART of. A number of my classmates went to Vietnam, but I did not appreciate what they were experiencing at that time. Thank you for service, Nick and all of your comrades.

  13. Chris says:

    Thank you Nick for your service. It’s also about you and others who fought and many who came home broken. Its about my brother , the disabled vet, standing in 110 degree heat for the last 4 days giving out poppies so more vets get the help our government does not provide. I pray for all vets that their service will be recognized and thanked for a job well done. GOD bless America.

  14. Dick Schell says:

    Great post Nick. I too am a Nam Vet. I was so fortunate to see very little “live” action the year I was there but I did what I was asked to do by my Country and Superiors. I have no regrets and would do it again in a heartbeat! It gets very disturbing to me to see the mostly younger generations that has no understanding why they’re able to do what they do. I really get PO’d at public events where the National Anthem is played and people can’t shut up for 3 minutes and pay their respects.

    Thanks for your service and as another poster said, Welcome Home Brother!

  15. Bill Daines says:

    I was drafted into the USMC on Jan. 1970. I can say the two years I served, I’d not have traded for anything. Then I had a wonderful career, 34 years as a LEO. During that career I’d go out of my way to talk to a military member and thank him or her. I am always thanked for my service and I say I’m proud to have served and I’m proud to be an American Citizen. At times when I’m in a cemetary and see a Vererins monument that is dirty, I wash it off. We can do one of many things to remember Veterins who are not with us today. I challenge you all to take just a few minutes and walk thru a cemetary and look for the markers that ID a Vet. Wash off a marker or pull some weeds. Then say Thank you. Thanks. Bill

  16. Alice Penny says:

    Good comments, Nick. Here at Jojoba Hill SKP Resort, we held our regular Monday meeting and the theme was “Old Glory” and all it meanings. We didn’t have our usual program because so many were out of the park for the summer. Many of our members are veterans and we owe a lot of gratitude to them and everyone who has worked to preserve and maintain our great county.

  17. Madjhn says:

    Thanks Nick, for your post and the many responses. Nothing to add but “God Bless America” and all who serve or have served.

  18. the_wanderer says:

    Like your post, Nick. Over the many Memorial Day’s since the 2 tours i did in the ‘Nam, I have nothing but sadness, which turns to bitterness, which turns to anger. I don’t like to see families celebrating with hot dogs, cookouts, a couple of days off, etc. That’s the effect it has on me. Kinda anti-american, huh? Thanks for the kicks, America. Now I just crawl in a hole on Memorial Day and hide my spirit, which was killed so long ago.

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