Editor's Note: CNN's Jill Dougherty spoke with Major Stephen Roberts, officer at the medical unit at Camp Liberty, Iraq (near Baghdad). Jill met him while filming a story on the soldiers who shaved their heads to raise money for children with cancer back home (watch). She shares her latest conversation with Major Roberts about Memorial Day here:
U.S. Affairs Correspondent
At 3pm, Baghad time, the doctors, nurses and medics at Camp Liberty's medical clinic near Baghdad will pause, along with their fellow soldiers and U.S. citizens around the world, for a National Moment of Remembrance. But it comes right in the middle of sick call hours. With sick and wounded soldiers waiting for help, there's not a lot of time to spend in remembrance.
So Major Steven Roberts, MD, will call the clinic to attention, say a few words about the importance of Memorial Day. His staff will observe a moment of silence in honor of their fallen comrades - and then, back to work!
In his other life back in Washington, DC, Major Roberts is Attending Physician, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, providing treatment for children with cancer. Even at their young ages, they're in the fight for their lives and, here, his patients often are too.
Mayor Roberts says Memorial Day brings home not only the sacrifice of men and women for their country but the loneliness that all of them endure. "Thoughts of my family are constantly with me throughout my day," he says, "and missing them is a constant ache that never really stops. It can be hidden temporarily by busyness, but at the end of the day, that gnawing sensation is still there..."
Major Roberts says his thoughts aren't "profound." What he misses is the everyday happiness of being at home, with the people he loves. "Sleeping in a little later than normal (on a comfortable mattress without the sounds of gunfire or explosions in the distance) ; drinking a good, cold beer, etc. Simply put, holidays hurt."
He also loves the tradition of the backyard barbecue, what he calls "a uniquely American event."
"I tend to disagree with those who lament that Memorial Day seems to have degenerated into simply a three-day weekend of barbecuing," he writes. "Here is why: The soldiers we remember on this day died to protect the way of life of this country. I truly believe that if you could ask most of the servicemembers who can't participate because of their "ultimate sacrifice" most would say that they would want to spend the day together with family and good friends. In a sense, it is backyard barbecues, in as much as they represent something about the value of family and friends, that these men and women died to protect."
Remembering our troops... and how you can help...
Filed under: Memorial Day
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with