An Interview with Manda McVey
Founded in 2014 be Ben King at Arlington Cemetery, Mindful Memorial Day was created to honor our fallen heroes in mindful ways. In doing this, remembering our heroes keep their stories alive, it helps us understand that our gratitude matters, and it also reminds us that we are all responsible for ensuring our freedoms to our future generations.
Last year, it expanded from Arlington Cemetery to Tahoma National Cemetery in Washington state... and Manda McVey - military spouse of the year 2020 nominee, Rosie Network Seattle co-lead, and Armor Down Honor Ambassador - was the woman who made that happen.
We were able to sit down with her recently to talk about her experiences as a military spouse and Mindful Memorial 2019 at Tahoma National Cemetery.
NWWM: What do you enjoy most about the military life?
MV: I am a gypsy at heart, so I actually do enjoy that we move. I also TRULY appreciate the opportunities and scholarships for school and training. I have been gifted as a military spouse, there are so many out there.
NWWM: What part has been the most challenging?
MV: Honestly, trying to rebuild connections and a "tribe" in each new place.
NWWM: Please tell us more about Mindful Memorial?
MV: We provide fallen warrior cards that are initially blank, but have a space where an adhesive tag with a service member's name and other information can be applied. Visitors may request a specific service member, or accept a random choice. By using multiple sources, to include searching through news articles and obituaries, we've double-checked names, dates, military branches, rankings, operations being supported, and hometowns to make sure the information on each tag is as accurate as possible.
Visitors, with their consent, will be led by a volunteer through a mindful moment of gratitude. The ribbon is then turned into a necklace that the visitor may take home as a reminder and memento. Visitors are also encouraged to memorialize their Fallen warrior on the Mindful Memorial Day Facebook page.
NWWM: How did you come to decide to recreate it here in WA?
MV: I found out that WA has a national cemetery and thought it would be amazing to recreate it here for the simple fact that many people buried in national cemeteries often don't have local family members to come honor them very often. No one should ever forget the sacrifices these service members, or their families, have made. I saw this as a way for people to help carry on that honor. Not to mention the impact it has on the family that is able to come and honor a loved one on Memorial Day, and be able to see a stranger taking a moment to honor them solely because they are grateful.
I reached out to Ben Kind, the founder of Armor Down - the organization behind Mindful Memorial Day - and he said he would love to have me help get it going in WA. I then spoke to the assistant director at Tahoma National Cemetery and she was immediately on board.
NWWM: Your husband had just returned home from training days before Memorial Day. Are you able to share where he was and how long he was away?
MV: Yes, he was in the South Pacific, mainly Thailand and the Phillippines, and had been away for five months. This was a huge change for our family, as we had gotten married while he was on recruiting detail. This was our first time being away from each other, other than when I went to yoga teacher training.
NWWM: What does Memorial Day mean to you and your husband?
MV: It's a day to hold space and honor those who have served and sacrificed. To honor their families, and make sure they are not forgotten. There is a quote that says, "Every man dies two deaths. The first is when you take your last breath. The second is when your name is spoken for the last time."
We believe it is our duty to make sure those names continue to be spoken so that second death never comes to those who gave their all.
NWWM: Do you have a tradition for how you typically spend the holiday?
MV: We usually help the American Legion set out flags on the veterans' graves in whatever cemetery they need us at, and then attend as many services as we can to honor as many as possible.
NWWM: How has this experience with Mindful Memorial changed you both?
MV: I spent half the day crying, seeing so many people so eager to get a ribbon to honor someone whose name they had probably never heard is a very touching thing to experience.
I also had people that weren't able to get ribbons for someone they had known because someone else had already honored the individual. Happily enough, those people would just ask for another ribbon so they could pay it forward. I had parents coming up to thank me because they had gone to their child's grave to find someone there honoring them. I had families with small children asking for a ribbon for each person in the family, and parents were teaching their young ones that Memorial Day is about more than pools, sunshine, and cookouts.
There were so many people showing gratitude in various ways and thanking us for putting it on, I think overall it has just made us grateful for the appreciation and humbled us a little to see so many people participating.
This year, the Mindful Memorial Foundation invites you to join them in honoring the lives of 7000 service members... from the safety of your own home.
How can you do this? By saying their name, taking a moment to honor their sacrifice, and keeping their name close to your heart for the day.
Sign up here.