The tombstone of Air Force Capt. Steven L. Bennett, Medal of Honor recipient, at Lafayette Memorial Cemetery in Lafayette, Louisiana. His daughter, Angela Bennett-Engele, says she wants everyone to understand the true meaning of Memorial Day. (Courtesy Photo | Angela Bennett-Engele)

For many, Memorial Day is just another welcomed day-off from work. A long weekend. Families will fire up the barbecue, pop open the coolers, and some might even find a pool to swim in. 

But for Angela Bennett-Engele, Terry Burgess and many others whose father, son, brother or daughter were killed while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, Memorial Day is every day.

“I think that on Memorial Day, we really, really owe it to those that did give the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” said Bennett-Engele,  human resources director for the University of North Texas

Her father, Capt. Steven Bennett, was a U.S. Air Force Pilot, and a Medal of Honor recipient for his heroism during the Vietnam War on Aug. 8, 1974.

“Memorial Day is so much more than just another Veteran’s Day,” Bennett-Engele said.

We should take the day to remember, and honor, those who couldn’t make it back home from service, she said. 

“It’s not just mattress and tire sales,” Burgess said. “No, it’s honoring soldiers who raised their right hand, you know, swore to protect the country… They’re the reason we can have those cookouts and those big box office sales and everything else.”

Burgess is a Fort Worth resident, president and co-founder of Gold Star Parent’s Retreat. To him, Memorial Day has become more holy than Christmas, as reverent as Easter.

His son, Army Staff Sgt. Bryan Burgess, died in Afghanistan in 2011. Since then, Terry’s done everything he can to keep his son’s memory alive and honor the ultimate sacrifice he took. But it doesn’t stop after Memorial Day. 

He founded the Gold Star Parent’s Retreat, an annual retreat for parents of fallen soldiers, and returns yearly to Bryan’s unit reunions outside Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he’ll share and swap stories of Bryan. He says it’s a cathartic, and painful, experience. 

For Bennett-Engele, too many have forgotten why U.S. citizens have the freedoms they do, mentioning protests and marches that have “besmirched” the American flag. She says although the U.S. is in a midst of constant division, this shouldn’t be a partisan issue. 

“So as you’re kneeling on that flag, as you’re burning that flag, as you’re stomping on that flag… just remember it draped somebody’s coffin… and the fact that it draped that coffin gives you the right to stand there and say whatever you want,” Bennett-Engele said.

Burgess said some people don’t understand and that is painful.

“Absolutely painful,” Burgess said. “They were 18, 19 years old when they raised their right hand and took that oath to protect our nation to protect our freedom.”

Memorial Day’s activities may not include barbecues or pool time for Bennett-Engele and Burgess, though they do encourage families to enjoy their day off together.

They spend Memorial Day placing flowers on tombstones and American flags on cemetery grounds.

Bennett-Engele doesn’t expect everyone to follow suit, but she said, at the very least, families across the country should take a few minutes of solitude to honor those like her father Steven Bennett, Burgess’ son Bryan, and countless others who made that ultimate sacrifice. 

In the mandate that made Memorial Day a federal holiday, it states that a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time.

So, at 3 p.m. on May 29, Memorial Day, Bennett-Angele and Burgess ask families across Fort Worth, North Texas and the country to take a brief moment away from the grill, the pool and the family camaraderie, to honor those fallen soldiers.

Matthew Sgroi is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Matthew Sgroi is the 2022-23 Fort Worth Report multimedia fellow. He can be reached at or (503)-828-4063. Sgroi is a current senior at Texas Christian University, majoring...