Memorial Day 2019 is almost here, and I have thought about its meaning a great deal this year. While the holiday is considered the unofficial start of summer and kicks off a fun-filled and much-anticipated season for many, it was created to honor Americans who have died in service to their country. After all, more than 1.35 million members of the armed services have lost their lives in conflict.
Each year at this time, beach days, picnics, pool parties and long-weekend vacations bring us so much joy that we sometimes may forget the meaning of Memorial Day — and that May also is National Military Appreciation Month. NMAM, as it’s abbreviated, is celebrated every May and honors current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including those who have died in the pursuit of freedom. It’s a period that the late Senator John McCain designated, via 1999 legislation, to reinforce public respect for all those that have served. During this time, it has become customary for me to reflect on our good fortune as Americans, and my own special privilege in being one.
As a naturalized citizen, I was not born here in the United States but instead had the great honor and luck to adopt this place as my home. Because of those in uniform who protect our American values, I, and my family, enjoy the life of our dreams here in the United States. I have many friends, acquaintances and employees who have emigrated from other counties, seeking to live their lives as they want, some accepting political or religious freedom, some looking for a better opportunity to make a living, and some just wanting to experience a chance to thrive and live the American Dream. Most of these folks never forget that our men and women in uniform work to protect that freedom of opportunity and to guard this beautiful land.
In truth, we’re all living the lives we choose because of the freedom fought and maintained by our U.S. military. But putting aside warfare, the military also accomplishes rescue work, disaster relief, and humanitarian missions as part of its charge.
During last year’s massive wildfires, nearly 1,500 California National Guardsmen and 200 active-duty soldiers fought the blazes in four western states, according to the National Guard. Here in Southern California, where 97 thousand acres burned, troops used more than 20 aircraft and 100 vehicles to combat the largest wildfire the state had ever seen. Members of the Nevada National Guard also came to California to help us.
To show my appreciation for the epic work of local firefighters, I visited them and made a donation to the Los Angeles County Fire Department Foundation. I wanted to help the Fire Department Foundation in their mission to support educational efforts and under-funded programs that work to prevent fires from starting in the first place. It made me feel a little less helpless as I witnessed such devastation.
This year, in respect and appreciation for our military forces, I’ve declared that my new BLISS car washes will offer every member of the armed services, former and current, a free car wash on Memorial Day weekend. We’ll also give them an opportunity to enter our raffle for a year’s worth of free car washes. It’s a small way we can honor someone, year-round.
As I remember the words of Winston Churchill, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few,” I encourage everyone to take a moment to reflect on the significance of this day, and show gratitude for the freedom we all enjoy.
David Delrahim is a businessman, philanthropist and CEO of BLISS car wash