May 25 2015

(Happy) Memorial Day

It feels odd to me to say “Happy” Memorial Day, but that is the cultural greeting. It also feels weird to me to honor only those who gave their life while actually serving as the text of the holiday would state. Therefore, I choose to vary things a little — nobody said I was ever normal. I choose to honor all those that have passed after serving as well.

Have a Heartfelt Memorial Day everyone. I hope that those you honor today can look down see peace in your life knowing that they worked hard to protect freedoms that remain in place today.

To Sgt. Joshua Harris, Illinois Army National Guard:

Josh, You always did what you wanted to do, even if that means flying in to serve your country. When we were Boy Scouts, I remember you loving history and wanting to know everything you could about the military. Each thing you learned made it clearer that you always wanted to serve. Who would have known that your vibrant life would be so short? It has already been seven years since the world lost a star. You always shined so brightly. As children, we always adventured with you. We always wanted to make a difference with you at the center. Today, I sit here thinking what you would think about the world you protected. Would you like it? Would you say your Sacrifice is worth it? With all my heart, I hope so, and I miss you.


To PFC. Edward Harry Troiani, AAF:

Grandpa, I cannot tell you the days I had fun with you after work. I loved those days so much. We had so many naps. We saw so many trains. You instilled in me a respect and love for the manmade creations that we use every day. A train is still an amazing invention to me. To think about the things you saw in World War II. In fact, I expect it was those things you saw that made our time together so valuable to you. At times, I had difficulty understanding some of the things you told me or said to me. I was an innocent child and you had so many stories. I regret not knowing more and asking more about you and the things you loved, and hated. I wish I could carry more on from you. You gave so much so that I can live a life that makes me happy. Although, I do know you hated onions even if Grandma Mary did put them in our food all the time without you knowing… “Does this have onions in it?” She would always answer with, “Of course not.” and you would say, “It’s wonderful.” In retrospect, from one adult to another, you knew, right? I was even giggling, and that sly smile on Grandma Mary’s Face… Of course, you knew. I realized the sly smile was not her and I pulling something over your eyes, but the two of you pulling something over on me. Thanks Grandpa, for everything. Today, I sit here thinking what you would think about the world you protected. Would you like it? Would you say your service was worth it? With all my heart, I hope so, and I miss you.


To Capt. Albert Mason Harlow Jr., USN:

Grandpa, I wish I could have known you. You passed before I had a chance to meet you. What kind of person were you like? Why did you serve? Would you be happy with the world you worked to protect? I cannot think that you would not. I have given your daughter quite a job. She has worked hard over twenty-nine years to give a young child a beautiful life and every opportunity to excel. She has been frustrated when I have not taken advantage of some of them. She did not understand why I did many of the things I did. Your son, Albert Mason Harlow III, has helped me learn how to communicate properly with her. My relationship with your daughter is getting much better. He has also provided me a great deal of support and guidance over the years. I hope you can be proud of both of them. I know I sure am, and happy to call them family. Your youngest child is by your side, taken too early. Did you miss him? Your wife is with you as well. She also provided me so much when I was younger. I hope they tell you stories of my bright days. Thanks Grandpa, for everything. Today, I sit here thinking what you would think about the world you protected. Would you like it? Would you say your service was worth it? With all my heart, I hope so, and I wish I could have known you.


The three of you have passed after serving the country, one passed while serving the country. I miss you. Thank you for your the difficult work you have done so that I can live in freedom. So many people that walk with us have served as well. Freedom is not free. Your service and the service of those still with us have protected our lives, country, and freedom so that we can continue to live by our own choices, desires, and needs. This year in particular, I am thankful for the freedom I have received to make my own choices. I do not know where I would be in another country, under a different lifestyle. I sure would not be as happy. This Memorial Day is more than a thank you. This year I feel blessed to be able to make my own choices and live my own life. I credit the work you all have done to protect my ability to live the way I need to live. I hope I can make half as much difference to the world as each of you have.


About the author


I’ve never been good at writing about myself. I’ve never been good at ‘talking up my strengths’ but at least I should try…

I am a 30 year old (gasp), woman. To me, it is just that simple. My life is slowly coming together into a form where I can be proud to call it my life.

Who am I? I’m a strong, loving woman that was assigned male at birth and is finally correcting that egregious error by biology. For most women if they have an urge like wearing a sundress, they just do it. For my first 29 years on this planet, that wasn’t a possibility.

I write to heal, then publish to inform. I hope my journey can make the journeys of people that come after me just a little less painful.

I also have a ‘day job’ as a Data Center Technician. I do an incredibly physical job lifting fixing and moving servers. I daily, walk into and then maintain ‘the cloud.’ Servers are still quite a bit larger and heavier than your desktop at home. So much so that I am the only woman on my team of 20 and one of 5 in the entire building of about 75. Technology is without a doubt a male dominated industry. Which makes me quite sad.

I wish I could better express who I am. I don’t feel like I’ve done justice to my history, my life, and my story, but for now, this will have to do. To me the most beautiful thing in the world is understanding and empathy. If we can have only one thing for each other person on this planet, I choose empathy.


  1. Marcy

    Nice tribute Jo! Means so much that you took the time to reflect on who they are and what they did for our country and for you. Well done!

  2. Mary Ann

    What a wonderful tribute to all. It’s so good that someone understands what this day is all about. Reading about Grandpa madee smile and also have a tear in my eye. He would totally love what u wrote and he would totally be there for u today.

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