This weekend, our nation will observe Memorial Day, honoring men and women who have served our country. The occasion is a solemn reminder of the sacrifices that heroic men and women have made for our nation and for freedom.
My late husband and I both had the privilege of serving in the United States Navy. We met at Portsmouth Naval Hospital Officer’s club and married soon after at the U.S. Naval Academy. We had 35 wonderful years together, as well as four children and two grandchildren before Owen passed away last year after a battle with a rare and aggressive cancer.
Owen adored our family. He loved to fish on the ocean surf, play his saxophone in various bands, and teach and mentor Midshipman at the Naval Academy where he worked for twenty years. He also loved sharing his Catholic faith with others serving on various boards at St. Mary’ Church, in Annapolis Maryland, and at the Knights of Columbus, including the Naval Academy. That’s why we had planned to go on the annual Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage together.
Lourdes, where Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette, is a place of healing – both physical and spiritual. The annual pilgrimage brings both active and retired U.S. military personnel, to the sacred site, in order that they might find healing in this holy place, and to pray for peace with military service members representing 50 other nations.
This year marked the 5th annual Warriors to Lourdes Pilgrimage, sponsored by the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and the Knights of Columbus. This month, more than 200 active and retired U.S. military personnel wounded, ill and injured participated in a journey dedicated to individual healing and a more peaceful world.
When Owen and I first received his cancer diagnosis, we knew that God put us on a mission to say "yes" to the challenges, joys, ups and downs, that came with this task, and to demonstrate our faith to others in the midst of this challenge.
Owen and I decided to take this pilgrimage together last year, but unfortunately, he was unable to travel as he was undergoing cancer treatments. We had felt that the pilgrimage would be an occasion to find healing and strength through our Blessed Mary, and to grow closer to our Heavenly Father, knowing what the future held for us with his diagnosis. It too would provide an opportunity to share our suffering and give hope to others, as they too carried heavy crosses, of seen and unseen injuries from the war. So, I decided to take this pilgrimage in my late husband's honor, to help my own faith journey, and to show gratitude for the outpouring of love which the Lord continues to show me.
I recently retired as a Navy nurse in the Navy Reserve after 37 years, so I offered to serve on the medical team for our service members, as it’s a great way for me to give back. It was an honor and a privilege to assist these pilgrims as they prayed for spiritual healing for themselves and peace in our world.
This Memorial Day, remember our troops, living and deceased, and in your prayers. Consider ways you can serve veterans in your community such as greeting the troops at BWI airport.
I started this effort back in 2007, to give our troops a Heroes’ welcome Home. Operation Welcome Home Maryland has greeted over 600,000 servicemen back from their deployments thus far. The gift of your time to volunteer, to say “Thank you for your service”, will be forever etched on your heart, especially seeing our Servicemen’s smile.
I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have attended the Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage, to continue my work with the troops, and to pray for peace