This is Memorial Day weekend.  I’m already thinking about the cookout Rising Above is having in the park to celebrate. Most of us equate Memorial Day with a day off from work, cookouts and picnics, visits to the lake, camping, and just being around family and friends.

Memorial Day originated as a holiday to honor those who gave their lives through service in our country’s armed forces. Over time we expanded it to also recognize anyone who served in the military as well. In the south it was originally called Decoration Day and families would place flowers or other memorials on the graves of deceased family members. My own family still honors that tradition.

This Memorial Day I will be thinking of people like my good friend Rick. Rick was a career military man who served 23 years in the army before retiring as a Master Sargent.

He knows the heat of an Iraqi summer day and the blistering cold of a Middle Eastern winter night from his service in Desert Storm. Rick was in a part of the service that went before everyone else to secure the way… by whatever means necessary.

He still feels more confortable driving a Bradley Armed Fighting Vehicle than he does a car. And when his daughter brings home a new beau, he’s prone to look the boy in the eye and remind him that he has killed people before.

Master Sargents are tough, disciplined, and determined,. You need to get something done and done right, find a Master Sargent.

For 23 years Rick served his country. He stood a post. He showed up for duty everyday, and he never slacked off or thought about just walking away from it.

And because he had made a commitment, he was prepared every day to lay down his life to serve his country.

A commitment he would keep with honor, dignity, and a passion for excellence for 23 years.

Now Rick has reported for duty again even though he is retired. This time he gets up every day and lays down his life for his family. Rick’s son has profound special needs. As you know that puts a heavy burden on a family.

Rick’s son and my son are pretty close in age and very similar to each other.

Everyday Rick stands his post. He picks up Danny from school and watches him in the afternoons. He takes him to appointments, therapies, swimming, and goes to IEP meetings. He supplements his retirement working in law enforcement while finishing up a college degree on the side, so that Danny has everything he needs.

And when Danny needs anything at all, you can count on the ole’ Sargent Major to report for duty and stand a post. It’s hard, it’s challenging, and it’s exhausting. He knows it’s not just his duty, but to Rick it’s also a privilege and honor.

Rick made a commitment. They have a lifetime bond together. One thing I know is that God destined them, along with the rest of the family, to be together. He was called and chosen. And he’s committed.

By the way Rick’s older daughter just graduated high school and will continue her passion for gymnastics in college.

We’re losing the special needs dads these days. Over 80% of our children with special needs are being raised by single female caregivers today. Often it’s because the man can’t handle it, or refuses to handle it. Too often the dads seem to just walk away from it all. Some would call it going AWOL. I call it desertion.

It’s not in the ole’ Sargent’s vocabulary. The thought wouldn’t even cross his mind.

I’m on a crusade to get more dads to step up, get engaged, and recognize their calling.

I’m on a crusade to get dads to fight for their kids, become involved, and engaged, and be willing to lay down their own lives and dreams for their families and special needs children

I guess you can say, “I’m looking for a few good men.”

Maybe I need to find more Master Sargents.

Shake the hand of a veteran this weekend, and say thank you like you really mean it.