Memorial Day: Honoring Fallen Heroes and All Who Have Sacrificed So Much.

Memorial Day and Veterans Day have a very special place in my heart. I believe those that fight for us and have fought for us and lost their lives should be honored and celebrated for keeping our country safe.

Vietnam War - Bill Taylor and Stacy Lyn's dad served together.
My dad, Wayne Pilgreen, is holding his gun propped on his leg and looking at the camera.

My dad, Wayne Pilgreen, was only 19 years old when he fought for our country in the Vietnam War. He never talked much about it, but from my understanding, he was quite different after the war. Who wouldn’t be after seeing so much pain and death? He was in the worst of it. Tragically, he and a few members of his platoon were the only ones to survive one bloody battle.

Memorial Day Reading

As we approach Memorial Day 2021, it’s a good time to learn more about veterans’ wartime experiences and their aftereffects. Some are almost unimaginable.

There have been several books written about my dad’s platoon and battles in which he fought. He asked me to read one book in particular, Payback by Joe Klein. It recounts the lives of five Marines in war and their lives for 15 years after they came home. My dad is mentioned throughout the book.

Another book, On Full Automatic: Surviving 15 months in Vietnam,  is being written now, probably to be released in June. The author, Bill Taylor, has become a close friend of mine. I have his manuscript and cannot tell you what a great book this is. He mentions my dad as his hero! More specifically Bill says in his typically colorful language, “Wayne Pilgreen, one bad a** Marine. A survivor and he helped me survive my 13 months.”


Soldiers in Vietnam War cooking in helmets
Dad stirring their dinner in his helmet. He is an amazing cook, by the way!

Thinking of My Dad’s Sacrifice

Without a doubt I’m proud of my dad—he is an amazing man. However, learning what those young men went through has given me a new understanding of him and his struggles. Like most of those who served in Vietnam, he has PTSD and probably will suffer from it until the day he dies.

A photo of my dad taking apart and cleaning gun alone. Memorial Day reflections on war, PTSD, and freedom.
A photo of my dad taking apart and cleaning a gun alone. I’m thinking of him as Memorial Day approaches.

In a way, the families of soldiers suffer some of the costs of war without even knowing it. My mom said she wished she had understood more about PTSD. It is very real and changes our loved ones. These firsthand accounts of the Vietnam War, by men who served with my dad, have brought healing to me in many ways. 

One tough Marine - Op Buff
This is my dad right before Operation Buffalo – one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. Not many walked away from that one.

What Memorial Day Means to Me

Though many of our solders have fallen, they all have been touched by the horrors of war. After being reprimanded on social media for “celebrating” Memorial Day, I asked my dad if he was offended. He, like me, felt that we should celebrate the lives of those that have fallen. We, of course, need to remember and be sorrowful for the loss. Yet the sorrow should turn to joy and celebration because what they fought to protect—our freedom—still remains just that: We. Are. Free.

All in all, these men need to be celebrated! If any of you are veterans or soldiers, I will never be able to express how much I appreciate your sacrifice. You all are my heroes!

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  1. Stacy Lynn thanks for this take on a soldier. Your dad and his unit deserve so much more than they got. I was a very young child during WWII, had uncles in occupied Germany. Had a brother that guarded an atomic weapon in Germany during Korea. Did not have family in Viet Nam while I was raising babies. Had a nephew who served in Falugah after 9/11. Most of us have been shaped by the wars our men have fought to keep us free. God help us keep up the fight for our freedoms. Thank your father for his True Grit!!!

    1. I will certainly thank him from you. You are so right; most of us have ben shaped by the wars of our men who fight for our freedom. I am thankful everyday for that freedom!!

  2. Thank you for telling your fathers story and tell your father THANK YOU for his service. God Bless

    1. Thanks Shane!! I will tell my dad Thank You from you!!

  3. PO2 Scott Mehringer USN says:

    I appreciate your article very much. I served in the Navy 73-77. I have many friends who served in WWII, and Vietnam. I lost a close friend in Vietnam and he was like big brother to me. War changes you and affects you like no other.
    To forget the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice would be a travesty and shame. The soil where our troops have trodden are fertile from the blood that has been sacrificed in the name of freedom. We must not forget!

    Memorial Day is the day we remember and honor this who gave the supreme sacrifice. Thank you for writing this article. And to those who disagree… Well let them and maybe one day their eyes will be open and they will realize freedom isn’t free.

    1. Thank Scott! Thank you for your service as well. Wow! You totally get it. No one is ever the same when they return. It can be used for good, but all that fight for our freedoms lose part of who they were. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Jim Little says:

    Stacy, as a fellow, albeit younger veteran, I salute and thank your father for his service, sacrifice, and strength to move forward. Serving in the military is challenging in so many ways and the stress and terror of combat only makes it tougher. We should always celebrate our country’s Service members, Veterans and those who have given their ‘last full measure’ not only on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, but every day! We make/made the decision to serve and then accept and obey the orders of our national leaders regardless of the cost; it is what has guaranteed our freedom and safety of our fellow countrymen and women for the last 247 years. I have no regrets and would do it again if given the chance. I will also be ever thankful for those who came (and have gone) before me and for those who had my back at home and abroad. Thanks for your post.

    1. It is SO GOOD to hear from you Jim. I THANK YOU with all my heart for serving our country. We need you and could not do without your service. You are so right. When someone gives their life to serve in the military, they are indeed giving their life. Period. They may not lose their life, but they are no longer their own. Thanks for your comment. I will pass on your thankfulness to my dad. I think people like you are so helpful in healing the soldiers of the past. Thanks again!!

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