Families and soldiers speak out: Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, not celebration

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Family members of fallen soldiers, and soldiers themselves said they want you to keep families who have lost loved ones in mind. This day is not meant to be a celebration.

Redstone Arsenal's Survivor Outreach Coordinator Kerrie Branson said Memorial Day is a very important day for the families she works with because they don't remember their fallen heroes just once a year.

"It's a huge void in their life on a daily basis, so it's just nice to see our community, our country, come together on that one day to recognize and remember their loved ones like they do," said Branson.

Army Sergeant First Class Kellen Hansen said for veterans, active armed forces, and Gold Star families, this day means more than what some people take it for.

"When someone says 'Happy Memorial Day' it doesn't really make sense to those of us who have been on the other side of it. There's nothing happy about Memorial Day. It's a remembrance thing, that's what it's there for. I've lost a lot of buddies at some point of another," he said.

Branson agrees, asking for people to remember the loved ones who were left behind.

"Please don't say 'Happy Memorial Day'. It's not a happy day for those. We understand that you make the best of your freedoms and you want to have a good time enjoying your family and friends, but this is a day of remembrance and it's a solemn day," she explained.

Annette Hall is a Gold Star mother.

"Staff Sergeant Jeffery Allen Hall wanted to be an army ranger and he made it, and he was so proud," she said.

She lost her only son, Staff Sergeant Hall, in Afghanistan in 2009.

"He had just turned 28 years old, had an eleven month old daughter, been married two and half years. He packed a lot into those 28 years let me assure you," she said.

Hall said she wants people to put a face behind Memorial Day, and realize real people made the sacrifices we sometimes take for granted.

"He loved what he did for his country, he believed in his country," she said.

Another Gold Star family shared their loss with the community at the Maple Hill Memorial. Thirteen-year-old Bradley Ramsey also lost his dad in Afghanistan, Captain Chip Ramsey.

"He was kind, he was nice, he was brave," Ramsey remembered.

His sister Megan Ramsey said she's glad others can come together and remember her dad too, saying "That they stop and come out to appreciate people like my dad."

Hall said she wants others to really understand what Memorial Day means, not just to her family but all families of fallen heroes.

"We just need to stop and reflect for just a minute, and remember we have these freedoms because of the soldiers who laid their lives down for us," she said.

AUSA Vice President of Army Family Programs Jim Rountree said the Memorial Day service at Maple Hills means even more in today's world, and remembering those who have given so much for us.

"With all the tragedy, Manchester England and everything else, to show the respect for the soldiers of the U.S who are defending our freedom, and because of those who have made that sacrifice," he said.