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Memorial Day Remembrance

May 22, 2020
by Amy Anderson

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance to mourn and honor those who have lost their lives while serving our country. In honor of this holiday, we spoke to Department of Internal Medicine faculty who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces to gain perspective on what the day means to them.


Adam Ackerman, MD

What does Memorial Day mean to you?

Memorial Day has always caused me to reflect on the true meaning of courage and of sacrifice. It is a day set aside to remember those men and women who have answered the call to lay down their lives in service of the greater good. This particular Memorial Day carries additional meaning, falling as it does this year as the world faces together the existential threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, our enemies are not other human beings but rather an invisible virus and visible fear and distrust.

What’s one thing you wish people knew during this time?

My hope on this Memorial Day is that we acknowledge and are inspired by the heroic efforts of our frontline workers in healthcare and other essential industries. Their daily willingness to charge through their own fear to get the job done despite great personal risk echoes stories of those military heroes we traditionally celebrate this day.

Ackerman served as a Major in the U.S. Air Force.

 

Susan Crowley, MD, MBA, FASN
                                                                               

What does Memorial Day mean to you?

Memorial Day may be but once a year, but every day I see a poppy, I remember ‘Mrs. M’ and count my blessings for the freedoms I have because of the sacrifice made by so many patriots and their families.

How do you honor the fallen on this day?

First, as a sign of pride and military solidarity, we fly the American flag from our home. Second, we traditionally pause at 3 p.m. for a minute of silence to reflect on the supreme sacrifice that so many military members have made. Third, we usually march in our town’s Memorial Day parade and attend the ceremonial laying of a wreath on the town’s military memorial marker. The COVID-19 pandemic will obviously preclude that this year. In lieu of it though, we plan to attend the virtual ceremony for the National Memorial Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery at 9 a.m. on May 25.

What’s one thing you wish people knew during this time?  

Memorial Day is considered by some to simply be the kick-off weekend day for hosting summer barbecues, or for the fashion conscious, the permissible date to begin wearing white shoes. However, its true intention, as I learned from a Veteran’s wife who volunteered at the VA, is more somber. Each year on Memorial Day, ‘Mrs. M’ distributed a deep-red poppy boutonniere along with a free “cup of Joe” to all as they passed through the VA hospital lobby. When I inquired about the poppy, she shared with me her understanding of the symbolism of the flower—its deep red color representing the blood spilled by the fallen on the war-torn battlefields of World War I, and the poppy itself because it was the first flower to emerge from the soiled grounds of the western front. It was a tangible reminder, she said, of the meaning of the federal holiday, which is to give us all time to pause from the busyness of daily life to recall those U.S military service members who died in the course of one of our country’s past conflicts, and to recognize the legacy of freedom that they left us to enjoy. Who could ever forget such a vivid history lesson!

Crowley served as a Physician and Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy.

 



Auguste Fortin VI, MD, MPH, MACP

What does Memorial Day mean to you?

Having served in the military, on Memorial Day I feel a deep sense of respect and gratitude. Respect for the men and women who gave their lives so that my family, friends and I can have our freedoms, and gratitude for their sacrifice as well as for having been one of the lucky ones who was able to come home.

How do you honor the fallen on this day?

By spending time with my family, which is what I imagine most of the fallen would have done if their fates had been different. I take time to reflect on and thank the many young men and women whose lives were cut short while ostensibly defending our country and I grieve for their loved ones who live with the loss. I offer a prayer that one day such loss will no longer occur. 

What’s one thing you wish people knew during this time?  

People who serve in the military and those who serve in medicine put themselves in harm’s way in order to make a difference. Neither plans to die in the process. When they do, we survivors must salute their courage and selflessness and strive to prevent more deaths in the future. 

Fortin served as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy.



Barbara Gordon-Kundu, MD

What does Memorial Day mean to you?

Memorial Day is a time to reflect on the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. I joined the military because I realized how privileged I was growing up in the United States and that the freedoms I enjoyed were made possible by the sacrifices of others. I am deeply grateful to everyone who served and those currently serving in the military.

How do you honor the fallen on this day?

Over the past decade working in healthcare, first as a nurse in Navy and now as a resident physician, most Memorial Days I spend in the hospital caring for patients. This year will be no different, as I have the privilege of caring for patients in the VA on Memorial Day. I believe the best way to honor those that have given their lives for the safety and freedom of our country is to serve one another and promote the ideals they fought for.

What’s one thing you wish people knew during this time?

Reflecting on Memorial Day this year has been a little different since I became a mom last month. Looking at my little 6 week old in front of me, I can't imagine what parents go through when their children join the military. It wasn't until after I returned from my deployment from Afghanistan that my mom told me how worried she had been the entire time I was there. She prayed daily for my safety but kept a brave face every time I talked to her from oversea so that I would not worry. To me, Memorial Day is about honoring not only fallen service members but also recognizing the sacrifices of their families.         

Gordon-Kundu served as a Nurse Corps Officer and Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy.




James Joslyn, MD

What does Memorial Day mean to you?

To me, Memorial Day is a day to remember the men and women of our country who paid the ultimate sacrifice serving the nation. It is a somber occasion to reflect on these outstanding individuals who gave everything and had their lives cut short in defense of the nation.

How do you honor the fallen on this day?

On this day, I reflect on the names of those soldiers that I served with who died in combat. I try to remember their faces, what they sounded like, and who they were as people. I do not want them to be forgotten.

What’s one thing you wish people knew during this time?  

Our volunteer military draws exemplary individuals from across our diverse country. Many of these young men and women who lost their lives would likely have otherwise gone on to be leaders of our country in various ways. Our fallen comrades gave their lives because they thought that defending the United States of America, along with its high principles of liberty and equality, was worth dying for. I wish that all Americans would re-commit themselves on Memorial Day to preserving these principles and considering in what way they can serve our country.

Joslyn served as an Infantry Platoon Leader in Iraq and as a Company Commander in the U.S. Army. He continues to serve as a Major in the U.S. Army Reserves.



Sumit Kumar, MD
What does Memorial Day mean to you? 

I think of our service members throughout history to the present day, who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our homeland, our way of life, and our allies abroad.  

How do you honor the fallen on this day? 

I run down to Long Wharf and visit the military memorials by the water. I take a knee and say a prayer to honor those who gave their lives. 

What’s one thing you wish people knew during this time?

The difference between Memorial Day (those who died while serving), Veterans Day (those who have served), and Armed Services Day (those who are currently serving).

Kumar will begin his service as a Captain in the U.S. Army this summer.

 






Edward Manning, MD, PhD

What does Memorial Day mean to you? 

I am glad that we have Memorial Day as a dedicated time to remember the sacrifices of veterans, but each year its meaning changes for me somehow. This year has special significance for me because I find myself once again surrounded with colleagues who are willingly facing risks day-to-day, night-to-night to make the world better and help those who find themselves vulnerable. These are the reasons that I joined the military. This is why I became a doctor. I feel honored to play an active role in achieving these goals as a physician at Yale and the VA amongst so many dedicated professionals who share my same convictions. I am certain that this year will change the meaning of Memorial Day for me forever.

How do you honor the fallen on this day?

I take this time to remember my friends who died—all of my fallen brothers and sisters in arms. I feel nostalgic. I miss the camaraderie of my fellow Marines. I find it helpful to attend local ceremonies or to quietly reflect. Events from the prior year remind me to be grateful for everything I have, and I think about how I can to continue my oath to serve in the coming year. I know that sounds weird, but it’s what I do.  

Manning served as a Major in the U.S. Marine Corps.

 



Harold Rahming, MD, MHS

What does Memorial Day mean to you?

As I reflect on Memorial Day a few things come to mind: This is a day where we reflect and honor the men and women have served and fallen. It’s a day of gratitude and mutual solace. It’s a day of appreciation to the families of the men and women who were alongside them every step of the way.

How do you honor the fallen on this day?

I honor my fellow comrades that have fallen in battle on this day by holding a moment of silence with my friends I deployed with over the phone. Furthermore, I enjoy buying meals for less unfortunate veterans.

What’s one thing you wish people knew during this time?  

As a solider and physician, I understand the importance of camaraderie and team work. We are at war during this global pandemic and we must continue to support our healthcare providers because not all "warriors" wear combat boots.

Rahming is an Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom Combat Veteran of the U.S. Army, and continues to serve as a Captain in the Army National Guard.

 

The Department of Internal Medicine is the largest department within the Yale School of Medicine and one of the nation's premier departments, bringing together an elite cadre of clinicians, investigators, and educators in one of the world's top medical schools. To learn more, visit Internal Medicine.

 

Submitted by Julie Parry on May 22, 2020