By: Rosanne Franco

“I am grateful,” he said. With this simple statement, Carlo referred to the hundreds of years of ancestry that provided him with his life’s work. As he gestured to acres of land, he explained that he was humbled by the responsibility that had been entrusted to him by his parents. He discussed the work that had to be completed throughout the year to keep the crops coming in. He expressed his appreciation for the unique characteristics of the land. I was struck by his attitude of gratitude.

Being grateful is the first step. Happy is not always smiles. Sometimes happy is being grateful for the challenges as much as the good times. It takes practice to be grateful in all of life’s circumstances. Thank you is such a simple phrase and yet so difficult.

With the passing of Memorial Day 2016, I am reminded of and humbled by the sacrifices made by others for my “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” I think of my friends in the U.S. Navy and my former students serving in all of the military branches. I appreciate their willingness to give their lives so that I am free to live mine. I remember my family members who have served our nation throughout the years to ensure that our way of life continues. I am reminded of the sacrifices of people I have never met, in countries I will never see. I think of the great loss to families who have lost a son, a wife, a brother, or a mother. I think of the soldiers and sailors who have lost a colleague in arms. Reflection ensures that their sacrifices are appreciated. However, what I do next is really a test of my character.

An attitude of gratitude means being thankful in all circumstances. Integrity is tested most in negative situations. Being thankful for the growth that comes as a result of challenges can turn the ugliest problem into the loveliest triumph. I stand steadfast in my resolve to honor the memories of the fallen. I endeavor to live my life in a way that will make them proud to see that their sacrifice was appreciated and their investment in my liberty was worthwhile.