Collage of Memorial Day Pictures.

Memorial Day: A Time to Honor Our Nation’s Fallen Heroes

Memorial Day is observed the last Monday in May as a way to honor the men and women who died while serving in our nation’s military.

After the Civil War claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history, the U.S. began celebrating Decoration Day by decorating the gravesites of fallen soldiers. Decoration Day later became known as Memorial Day, a day meant to remember the sacrifice of all of those who gave their lives while fighting for our nation and its ideals.

This Memorial Day, we asked three TriWest Healthcare Alliance (TriWest) employees to share their own stories, reflect on what this day means to them and how best to pay tribute to our nation’s fallen heroes.

Not Just a Day Off, a Day to Remember

“It’s great most Americans will have an extra day off of work to spend time enjoying the company of family and friends, but the whole reason we have that time is because of so many who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy our freedoms.” – Rhonda Ferrel, TriWest Senior Project Manager

Rhonda Ferrel grew up in a small town in Wisconsin where her passion for the military began at a young age. “I knew I wanted to be a soldier,” she said. “I wanted to do what I could to protect our freedoms and my fellow Americans.”

With that passion, Rhonda joined the Army National Guard when she was still in high school. “It all started when a recruiter came to speak in my high school history class. Listening to him solidified my desire to become a Service member,” she recalled.

When she reflects on military life, she thinks about the camaraderie and closeness she felt so strongly. “As much as the different branches razz the others, everyone supports everyone else,” she said. “There can be rivalries, but when it comes down to it, nobody messes with your siblings.”

Sixteen years of service and one deployment later, Rhonda is serving her country in a different capacity now – as a Senior Project Manager for TriWest.

After 20 years working for a global business process outsourcer, she gravitated toward TriWest for its dedication to our country’s Veteran population. “It’s because of the company mission and motto that I was attracted to TriWest to begin with,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be a soldier. Because I’m no longer able to actively wear the uniform, being part of TriWest gives me the opportunity to serve and give back to this community that is so important to me and my family.”

Memorial Day is special to Rhonda and her family. “It gives not just me, but everyone in all communities across the nation, an opportunity to honor those who have paid the ultimate price fighting for our freedoms.”

Rhonda has several family members who have served in all branches of the military, including her son-in-law who is currently deployed with the U.S. Navy. She notes how important it is to remember our nation’s military families as well. “I think the importance of military family members is overlooked. How difficult it can be, especially during deployments.”

At her home in Wisconsin, Rhonda plans to spend Memorial Day watching or participating in the community parade. “It goes through town and ends at our local Veterans Memorial. There is a blessing shared for our fallen soldiers and for the families they’ve left behind,” she said. Rhonda sometimes takes time on Memorial Day to visit the grave sites of fallen friends and family as well.

She reminds us not to forget about the true purpose of the day. “It’s great most Americans will have an extra day off of work to spend time enjoying the company of family and friends, but the whole reason we have that time is because of so many who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy our freedoms,” she said.

Serving Veterans in Honor of Those Who Are Gone

Like Rhonda, Taneshia Sherrill knows firsthand the importance of a day like Memorial Day. Taneshia is a Navy Veteran and has lost friends to combat. She understands deeply the sacrifices of Service members and Veterans. “I know firsthand what it’s like to be away from your family and loved ones. To fight for your country. To have pride knowing that you helped make a difference,” she said.

Taneshia grew up in Oklahoma and joined the Navy in 2001. While on active duty, Taneshia was a hospital corpsman. She recalled a time during boot camp that highlighted the strength, teamwork and desire she and the others had to succeed. “We had to perform these battle station drills as a group before we could graduate,” she recalled. “They woke us up at 2200 hours, and we didn’t finish the drills until 0800. The fact that we all passed and did it as a team was a very honorable feeling.”

Taneshia separated from the Navy in 2012 and moved to Arizona where she attended nursing school and received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Taneshia spent time working in trauma nursing, correctional nursing and home health nursing before she “settled down and made TriWest her home.”

She describes her journey this way: “I received a call from a Human Capital representative who saw my resume and wanted to see if I’d be interested in working for TriWest,” she said. “I already knew about TriWest and their work with VA, and I was honored to be considered for a position.”

Taneshia works as an RN Care Coordinator at TriWest. “Being a Veteran, I understand firsthand what it feels like to be able to get your medical needs handled by someone who cares,” she shared. “Working with TriWest allows me to continue to work with Veterans as an RN providing education and assistance.”

You could hear her passion in the way she discussed her role supporting Veterans at TriWest. “I am their educator, their supporter. I am their advocate if needed. I let them know that I appreciate their service to this country,” Taneshia explained.

As a Veteran and someone who works tirelessly on behalf of other Veterans, Taneshia wants us to know just how special this community is. “Veterans and military families live by a different set of rules and conduct,” she said. “We do whatever it takes to get the job done. We do not leave any Service member or family member behind.”

This Memorial Day, Taneshia plans to honor Veterans by passing out food to homeless Veterans. For others looking to recognize this day, Taneshia has some simple advice: “Be thankful. Be humble. Say ‘thank you’ to a Veteran. Because of that Veteran, we are free in some way to continue with our lives. They fought so some of us didn’t have to.”

This Memorial Day, she suggests honoring those who have died by caring for those who live.

If you’re looking to take action, Taneshia continued, “Buy a Veteran a meal, give them clothing, sit by their bedside or just say thank you.”

All of Us Can Find Ways to Show Our Respect

While many of those working at TriWest are Veterans like Rhonda and Taneshia, there are others who come to serve and honor our nation’s Veteran community from a different path.

Tim Moore, a Senior Web Designer at TriWest, said he’s always been creative – from writing to music to art and design. Knowing his passion to create, he finished his degree and searched for a career “he’d never have to retire from.” Tim said, “I enjoy the process of creating things that can impact the way people see or hear things, to move somebody.”

Tim found TriWest, which gave him a chance to impact others through his design work while serving the Veteran community at the same time. For Tim, this was “the main reason for considering and selecting TriWest.”

Tim described the importance of the work they do at TriWest this way: “It’s nice to give back a little something or impact those who have served and sacrificed so we all can live in a place with freedoms and opportunities that many people and places don’t get to enjoy. While nowhere is perfect, we are definitely blessed.”

Tim takes advantage of the opportunities TriWest offers its employees to get involved in events that honor our nation’s Veterans. “Volunteering to march in the Veterans Day parade and seeing how much it means to some of the people out watching it, it’s very surreal,” Tim recalled. “You see the emotion on the spectators’ faces, you watch the handshakes and salutes, honoring the people who served. It’ll bring a tear to your eyes more than once.”

Taking part in events like this highlights the importance of honoring our Veterans, and Memorial Day gives us all another chance to do just that. “All the days that honor the people who have contributed to us having a place to live that allows us to work and craft out a life we enjoy should carry a certain level of reverence,” Tim said. “Memorial Day is for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice; it definitely means more.”

While Tim plans to spend Memorial Day with his family, he spent time leading up to this special day working on a design piece for a Memorial Day ad in USA Today. He described the design process like this: “It starts with approaching the people it’s meant to reflect upon with honor and reverence. I wanted the image I selected to carry weight, but not to be overly sad or upsetting.” Check out the USA Today piece that Tim designed for Memorial Day.

Tim’s work gave him a chance to think about the importance of this day and how we can honor those who sacrificed so much. “Make sure to think about the people and the reason for this holiday,” he advised. “Honor them. Volunteer to serve with organizations that help people whose lives have been impacted by losing family in service of this country.”

Remembering and celebrating those who fought and died for our country is deeply personal. Regardless of how you choose to spend this Memorial Day, think of the advice from Rhonda, Taneshia and Tim, who remind us that we should set time aside to honor the men and women whose sacrifice gives this day its meaning and significance.

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