Editor’s note: This post is sponsored by Capitol Concerts.
It’s no secret that military spouse life is full of surprises: the constant changing of the no-plan plans, PCSes that end up a little bit backward, and even small day-to-day experiences we encounter. One thing I’ve learned through the years is that all milspouse experiences can change us, usually for the better, be they big or small.
And recently, I had one of those very life-changing experiences: I attended The National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C.
The whole experience started out as an opportunity to experience the event and share about it with our AWN audience. I knew it was probably going to be pretty cool, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t super excited to go on a trip without my Tiny Humans.
However, I got more than I bargained for, in a very powerful and memorable way.
The National Memorial Day Concert, as its name implies, is held on Memorial Day weekend. It’s produced and subsequently broadcast by PBS as a tribute to our fallen service members and their families.
In the past, I’ve tried to distance my heart from this kind of stuff, mainly because it’s so powerful and, as a military spouse, I don’t like being super vulnerable in public.
But you know what? There was no fighting back the emotion, the immensity and magnitude of what our service members and families have done throughout past decades during my National Memorial Day Concert experience.
The entire program was polished, professional, and powerful. I had the opportunity to interview some of the celebrities and performers who took part in the program, and every single one of them was incredibly passionate about honoring our fallen comrades.
The program included high-caliber vocal performers such as Vanessa Williams, John Ondrasik from Five For Fighting, and country-music sensation Scotty McCreery. Several big-name actors shared narratives of real-life stories of our service members, such as Robert Patrick’s recount of “The Last Doolittle Raider” and Mary McCormack’s touching tribute to Gold Star families, told from the perspective of a Gold Star Daughter and her fallen father in the Vietnam War.
But, one story of the evening almost had me sobbing. I was nearly convinced there were not enough Kleenexes on the eastern seaboard to help me handle the most touching, inspirational experience of my milspouse life.
Actor John Ortiz and Ana Ortiz told the narrative story of wounded warrior Luis Avila. I don’t want to give the whole story away here, but big picture: I have never been so moved and inspired. In short, Luis and his wife, Claudia, fought their own war to survive after an IED changed their life in 2011.
After John and Ana finished the narrative, they walked to the audience, where, on the front row, they embraced the “real-life” Luis and Claudia.
Another twist to the Avila’s story was Luis’ engagement with Music Therapy to help with his recovery. So, a few moments after their narrative was presented, Luis and Claudia took the stage with Renee Fleming and performed “God Bless America.”
Friends, it’s truly impossible to put into words how that moment changed me.
As I looked around the audience, I no longer saw people. I saw stories. Stories of the four-star generals and the service members they’ve led through the years. Gold Star spouses dressed in all white that identified with many moments presented on stage. Veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Service members from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
All the stories. All the honor. All the selfless service and sacrifices for our country.
The National Memorial Day Concert changed me for the better. No longer will I steel my heart to be “strong” in the realm of hearing others’ stories about war wounds or fallen comrades. I want to listen. Because in some cases, listening is how we love.
Dear readers, if you have the chance to attend The National Memorial Day Concert (or The Capitol Fourth concert held on the July 4), go. Don’t make excuses. Pack your bag and go. If you can’t attend in person, make plans to tune in and watch it on your local PBS station or stream it live online.
Take my word for it. These service members changed and shaped our country with their sacrifice. Now let the powerful and professional tributes shared at the National Memorial Day Concert change you for the better.
For more photos from the event, check out Sharita’s photo blog here.