Personal Stories of Military Service and Sacrifice

Starbucks partners, many of whom are also veterans or military spouses, commemorate Memorial Day by sharing personal stories and observations.

Typically, I am reminded of our fallen heroes, but this year I remember my best friend and brother, Chief Warrant Officer 3, Jeremy Valdez. We served together since 2005 in Special Forces. He has defied death numerous times and I believe that should be honored as well. Jeremy fell off of a ridge top, survived an anti-tank ambush, and a helicopter crash. Jeremy was my best man at my wedding and this year I am honored to be his. He is a living memorial.

Steven Chavez, assistant store manager, Lakewood, WA

For me, this is a time for family and honor. My father served in the Navy prior to my birth. I get pieces of his experience through life. My big brother served in the Air Force for 20+ years and continues to work for the Air Force. I have had other family members serve too. As a child, I was oblivious to their duty. As an adult, I am so proud of both of them and the service they provided and continue to provide to this country. My brother continues to lead. He will deploy again in June for one last time. This holiday is a time to remember my family, their journeys that I will never be able to truly speak to, be grateful that they are here today, and pray for all serving a safe return home.

Kip Schagane, district manager, Leland, NC

Since my earliest memory as a kid, I can recall the bellows of the 21 gun salute with my Grandfather, a WWII veteran, at the disputed home of Memorial Day, Boalsburg Pennsylvania. Hand in hand, I asked him, ‘why do those big guns fire so loudly?’ His reply, a tearful eye and full of reverence and sorrow was, ‘That is for the boys who have died for our freedom.’ As a fourth generation service member, Memorial Day has always been more than a holiday to me. It is a time to reflect and pay tribute to those who have served, both friends and family. We always did something different on this day; we honored those that had gone before us.

In 2001, I was honored to be the guest speaker at the Memorial Day events in Everett, Washington. As an Active Duty Marine and with my family history, this held special meaning. The days leading up were filled with reflection and the overwhelming necessity to do my family proud and tell a greater story. Two days prior to the events, my Grandfather passed away. Emotionally moved with grief and sorrow, I rewrote my speech to honor him and all that he has taught me about Memorial Day. After a tearfully touching speech that moved the crowd, I boarded a plane and headed home to help lay him to rest not far from where I’d first learned the meaning and price of freedom, and the true meaning of Memorial Day.

This Memorial Day, I’ll surely do the same as I have in the past, pay tribute and show thanks to those who have served and given so freely of themselves, so we can be free.

Tom Tice, recruiting manager, Military Talent Acquisition, Seattle, WA

I couldn’t be more proud to be a United States citizen and Starbucks partner this Memorial Day, a day we honor all Americans who passed while in military service, protecting and serving our great nation. On this day of remembrance, I reflect on the freedom and opportunities we all have that can never be taken for granted.

San Diego is deeply rooted in the military communities in which we live and work, giving us the opportunity to create a place of belonging for military base personnel and their families in Camp Pendleton, Miramar, Coronado and Point Loma. We are thrilled to be the home of the first Military Family Store in Oceanside, California and take humbled responsibility to recruit and hire quality veterans, reservists and military spouses.

We continue to connect over greater purpose through our Starbucks Armed Forces Network chapter and thank all of our members – veterans, reservists, spouses and supporters – for helping us learn from you and continue the conversation. Thank you for your service and the families and friends who have supported you along the way this Memorial Day and every day.

Melissa Valdez, regional director, San Diego, CA

As a veteran, I view Memorial Day as a unique opportunity to teach children about the meaning of sacrifice and service. Through personal stories of people I served with and by attending Memorial Day ceremonies in the community, my sons are exposed to the idea that voluntary service to the nation is a noble cause and those who died in service deserve to be honored on this special day.

Danny Finan, product manager, Channel Brand Management, Seattle, WA

Since I have been involved with the Veterans Community Store in San Antonio, I have learned so much about military traditions and military life. One of the most impactful traditions I learned was about the Gold Star Survivor program. I had never been made aware of the program before working with Mr. Patrick Riley of Joint Base Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. I now understand that the Gold Star is given to a survivor of a fallen soldier lost in combat. It is an honor to now understand the meaning and to know that receiving a Gold Star means that this person had a family member give the ultimate sacrifice for our country, so that I can maintain the freedoms that I so cherish. Thank you to all the soldiers that gave their lives so we can have ours.

Bertha Gonzaba, regional director, San Antonio, TX

About Memorial Day

The origin of Memorial Day dates back to the late 1800s when Major General John A. Logan declared that May 30, 1868, would be Decoration Day, a time for the nation to decorate the graves of those who died in the Civil War. Although local tributes to those who died in the war had already occurred in various cities across the country for several years prior, this was the first large observance and was held at Arlington National Cemetery. Various Washington officials including General and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant presided over the ceremony, which was followed by children and members of the Grand Army of the Republic placing flowers and small American flags on both Union and Confederate graves. By the end of the 19th century, Decoration Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 across the country. It wasn’t until 1971 that Memorial Day– still often referred to as Decoration Day – was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress. It was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars and would be observed on the last Monday in the month of May.

Read more Starbucks veterans stories here: Paying Tribute and Creating Opportunity

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