EDITOR’S NOTE: Michael “Mike” Kennedy entered the healthcare information technology field as a partner/owner of Spectrum Systems, Inc./Precision Health Systems (PHS), Inc. After closing PHS, he worked in management and leadership positions with Dynamic Control Corp., LanVision, Cerner, IntraPrise Solutions, Innovative Healthcare Solutions, and Relware Inc. In 2007, Mike and two close friends founded Panacea Healthcare Solutions, and in 2016 Mike retired following a long career. Mike served in the U. S. Army from 1970-1975.
I know it is a cliché, but these days it seems that the true meaning of Memorial Day has gotten lost in the three-day weekend, with all the backyard barbecues, beach parties, and holiday sales. Under the strictest definition, Memorial Day is a time to reflect and remember those U.S. military veterans who lost their lives in, and subsequent to, service to our country. It is a somber day of remembrance and honor for those men and women who died for our country. (Note: Veterans Day is a time to thank those who are serving or have served and are still with us.)
I grew up instilled with a strong sense of patriotism, honor, and duty. Both of my grandfathers were in the Army in World War I, my father was in the Navy and his brother in the Army in World War II, and both uncles on my mother’s side served in the Korean War. All were volunteers and not drafted. They took their enlistment seriously, knowing they made a decision to risk their lives for a higher purpose beyond themselves – so that we, as a country, may live in comfort and security. While they seldom, if ever, spoke of their personal experiences in their service to the country, I was frequently reminded of our responsibility to remember those veterans who lost their lives during wars and conflicts in defense of the brothers/comrades around them, as well as those who subsequently passed after surviving their time of service to ensure a lasting freedom for the USA. Patriotism, honor, and duty were the cost, and our way of life in this country was the reward to be had.
When I got out of college, I made a quick decision to join the U.S. Army. Due to a military draft system in which my number was literally up upon leaving school, I chose an option that provided some control as to which part of the Army I would serve in, and what my role would be. It was shortly thereafter that I signed a contract and made a promise to myself and to our nation to do whatever was necessary, as I raised my right hand and repeated the United States Uniformed Services Oath of Office. Millions of men and women have made the decision to give up their lives for a higher purpose beyond themselves so that we, as a country, may live in comfort. These men and women, just like my forefathers, accepted their obligation as a military member to relinquish themselves for the continuation of the dream that we civilians live. Many lost their lives during acts of war and conflicts; many subsequently lost their lives as a direct result of things that happened in combat. Many others lived their lives full, enjoying the freedom and liberty they solemnly swore to protect.
Mike Kennedy as an U.S. Army officer.
During my time in the U.S. Army, I strove to do my duties to the best of my abilities. I was not a hero, but I stood shoulder to shoulder with many heroes. I accepted each task and performed it well, knowing I was supporting, teaching, comforting, mentoring, encouraging, and providing backup to those who were and/or would become heroes. It wasn’t about medals, it was never about glory, nor was it about another bar on my epaulet or stripe on my sleeve. It was because someday, when I got back to life in our free country, I would be able to partake of the “American way of life,” and could drive by cemeteries filled with military veterans, knowing for sure in my heart that not one of those tombstones is out there because of something I did, or failed to do. And in the end, there are no heroes there, only those who were willing to sacrifice it all, asking nothing in return but to never be forgotten.
So each year on Memorial Day (and in truth, throughout the year), I take a few minutes and commit to continued actions to remember in silence “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers” who took honor and duty seriously, understanding and accepting the risks and potential cost of fulfilling our solemn oath.
Mike Kennedy as a cigar box guitar maker and musician.