Speech delivered by Gold Star wife Michelle Black on Memorial Day in Lynnwood

Gold Star wife Michelle Black speaks during the Memorial Day 2023 ceremony at Lynnwood’s Veterans Park.

At the request of readers, here is a copy of the speech delivered by Michelle Black during Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans Park.

“Thank you so much for having me here today, I am honored to speak on such a somber occasion. Memorial Day is as dear to me and my family as I’m certain it is to each of you here.

I’d like to take a moment to recognize all of the veterans present and thank you, I know it is a hard day for many of you as you remember those who gave their lives alongside you in battle.

The brothers and sisters lost over the years due to war and its lasting effects.

I also want to recognize and thank every Gold Star family here today. Your loss is a weight few understand and the Sacrifice made is one you would not have chosen but you handle it with grace and dignity that would make your loved one proud.

The cost of our freedom is steep and our Gold Star families understand it better than anyone.

The first time I was fully awakened to the cost of our freedom and all that it means was the day I received a knock at my door by two men in uniform. Three weeks later me and my two young children would bury my husband.
October 30th, 2017 was the first time I ever set eyes on Arlington National Cemetery. Looking back, I am glad that I did not know the sobering environment I would be stepping into. That morning, Arlington spread out before me, its beautiful green rolling hills lined for miles with rows of white headstones. The sight of it was stunning but also chilling. The smell of the 624 acres of fresh-cut grass covered in dew seemed to muffle every word spoken, every cry, and every footstep. Bright fall light fell through the trees and across the sacred grounds, casting haunting shadows upon the countless stones.

I gazed at those stones, some as old as me, others as old as our country. I was overcome by the volume and magnitude of sacrifice. Had I not stood there myself, I could never have fathomed the weight of what Arlington represents. The expression “all gave some and some gave all” seems too small, too simple after seeing the hundreds of thousands of grave markers.

I think of the Gold Star pin given to me as a tribute to recognize the loss of my young husband.

That pin doesn’t represent only the loss of my husband and the sacrifice he made, it represents a community of those who have lost loved ones who made the same sacrifice in the name of protecting our freedom. That crisp October day, I was overwhelmed by the staggering number of people who had stood where I was standing and had experienced what I was experiencing. The amount of grief and loss the place contained changed me.
For the first time in my life, I understood exactly how much freedom had cost each family who had lost a loved one in service to our country and I was humbled. I was not only heartbroken for those families and service members who had made the ultimate sacrifice but I was grateful for each one who’d served and been willing to pay the price simply so I could live my life free and safe. No war has come to our shores in many generations and these men and women who gave their lives overseas are the reason why. Most Americans will never know their names, but all know the freedom they afforded. They are not people of great fame or fortune; they are people of great sacrifice.

And that is why we, as a nation, honor them and remember them today.
Before that moment in Arlington, there were so many things I saw differently than I do now.

One glaring example is how I respond to the National Anthem. I once saw it as a symbol of my patriotism. I would hear it play and I would stand, proud, with my hand over my heart and my head held high. For most of my life, hearing the Anthem play was like hearing a call to duty. It was my chance to stand up and show that I loved my country. But not anymore. Now my knees shake, and I am barely able to stand as the tears well up when the National Anthem plays. I cast my gaze down and try to hide my eyes as a flood of memories overwhelm me, as I’m reminded I am swearing loyalty to a country that cost my husband his life.

I fight to remain on my feet as I hear about a battle, lives lost, a flag that waves because of the brave men who died fighting, defending our nation, our freedom. I think about the families left behind, the countless children left fatherless and motherless. I think about my own children, and about Bryan, and then I fall to pieces. Only now do I fully understand exactly how much that flag costs. The blood and sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of men and women like my husband.

As a Gold Star wife, I have seen our flag in all the ways a person could. I have seen it waving from a flagpole tall and proud, I have seen it stained rust-colored with my husband’s dried blood. I have seen it through tears laying carefully across a wooden casket and I have seen it folded up in the arms of my children. It is because of this that I hold it, and our freedoms, in
both reverence and fear.

I tell you, despite the pain my family has endured and the sacrifices so many of our military families make on a daily basis, that this country is worth every drop of blood shed and every tear cried.

Greater than the lives lost is the freedom that their sacrifice afforded and no one knows this better than those who have worked to free oppressed people. The best we can do is remember the cost, honor the fallen, and remember them. It is not happy, but it is right. It doesn’t make me feel good, but Memorial Day is not about me. I have plenty of days to learn to feel good again. That’s the beauty of being alive and living in a free nation. Memorial Day is for the fallen. For those who gave all so that we can live free and safe in this great nation

So today, and every day I say the names of those I’ve lost, and I remember what they did and why. SSG Dustin Wright, SFC Jeremiah Johnson, SGT LaDavid Johnson, and my husband SSG Bryan Black.

Who do you remember today?”

— By Michelle Black

  1. Was excellent. The best speaker I have listened to in 10 plus years at this event. Jan

  2. What a beautiful and moving speech by Michelle Black. What she wrote and said so eloquently reminds us of the freedom and opportunities we so often take for granted. Thank you, Michelle, and may God bless you and your family, and may SSG Bryan Black rest in peace.

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