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Preserving Memorial Day's Purpose

May 25, 2020
Ed Skyler, Executive Vice President | Enterprise Services and Public Affairs

This year, Memorial Day comes at a time when all of us are navigating profound changes in both our personal and professional lives. When I began writing this message, I couldn't help thinking about how this solemn occasion has traditionally been marked by the physical proximity of people coming together to honor and remember our fallen service members. Yet, while like many of you I feel disappointment that so many of these gatherings will be missed this year, I also believe that we can observe Memorial Day in important ways that preserve its purpose.

Our observance is meant to embed in our national conscience the memory of the brave men and women we've lost over the course of many conflicts. Although the most visible acts of remembrance are largely on hold, the most powerful gestures are ones we make on our own. As we each take a moment to come to terms with the true meaning of selfless sacrifice, and establish a greater awareness of how our hard-fought freedoms came to be, we continue to honor and remember those who died while serving our country.

For the second Memorial Day in a row, I had the privilege as Co-Lead of the Citi Salutes Affinity to hear from one of our colleagues about what this day means to them. My conversation with John Rose, an Assistant Vice President and Storage Analyst within Enterprise Infrastructure Operations & Technology, was unique in one key respect: John belongs to a remarkable group of Citi colleagues in the U.S. and U.K who have mobilized as National Guard personnel and Reservists in support of COVID-19 relief efforts. These dedicated service members have been out there saving lives and helping our communities endure, and we owe them a deep debt of gratitude. Their commitment to a cause greater than themselves recalls that made by the fallen service members we honor today.

Wind turbinesCiti Colleague and Texas Army National Guard First Lieutenant John Rose

Thank you for your past and present service. Can you tell us about your current role and responsibilities?

John: I'm a Logistics Officer for the Texas Army National Guard. As part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I'm currently mobilized as a Safety Officer in the San Antonio area. It's my responsibility to gather feedback on our various operations happening in the field to continue to improve our risk mitigation methods. In all, I help to ensure that we embody the spirit of "Texans helping Texans," and that we do it as efficiently and safely as possible for everyone involved in our operations.

What does Memorial Day mean to you? As someone who's currently mobilized, has the day taken on a different significance?

John: Memorial Day is an opportunity to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. It's about the men and women who believed in their cause so much that they gave their lives for it. We sometimes lose sight of this, but Memorial Day encourages us to really think about the price it cost for us to enjoy the life we live and have the ability to pursue a better life. I wouldn't say Memorial Day has taken on a different significance now that I'm mobilized, but it's an absolute honor to be able to serve and follow in the footsteps of so many who came before me and made the ultimate sacrifice.

How will you honor our fallen service members this year?

John: Our mission continues through Memorial Day, so we'll set aside some time during the day to honor those who came before us and honor those that we knew personally. For those who have the day off, and where circumstances allow, I encourage you to help place flags on the gravestones of our fallen comrades. That's an experience that captures what Memorial Day is all about.

Are there any words you would like to leave us with about honoring both our living and fallen service members during this difficult moment in time?

John: The best advice I was ever given, which I live by daily, is "sometimes the only thing you can control is your own attitude." It would be easy for this Memorial Day to be overshadowed by the current situation, which is why we each have to make a concerted effort to honor our fallen service members. If you think of life like a book, this is just one chapter each of us is writing. While what we are now going through will have an influence on us all, it doesn't have to define us. Let's all come together for what we believe in and strive to make our world a better place. That's what our fallen service members did for us and what those of us currently serving continue to do.

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