Jessy Weiss

Instagram remains one of the fastest growing social media platforms with over 700 million active users. With its ever-changing features, it’s difficult to remain up-to-date on how to effectively use Instagram to complement your business’s overall marketing strategy.

At its core, Instagram is a visual platform. It offers your business an opportunity to present itself in a purely visual manner. Yes, the platform offers captions, hashtags (more on how to use those later), and tags but they are in place to support the photographic message.
When using Instagram, use the following:

A consistent, brand voice is essential for using Instagram. Your audience, especially on Instagram, seeks an understanding of your business’s “personality.” Develop content reflective of your business, but also specific to the platform. Your followers on Instagram will likely vary from those on LinkedIn. With that said, don’t shy away from distributing the same content across several platforms, but give each one its own voice.
Hashtags serve as a great way to reach more people with your content. Instagram users frequently search trending hashtags to discover new content so sprinkle a few hashtags in your posts. While sometimes overused, we recommend, based on our own success rates, between four and seven hashtags. Ultimately, let the content of the post dictate the type and number of hashtags.
Your Photo Feed
Good quality photos make all the difference on Instagram. It’s the platform for beautiful photos, and users know it. That said, while most businesses may not have a professional photographer at their disposal 24/7, it’s still possible to create a compelling Instagram feed. Take photos that represent the brand best and keep it consistent. Make sure all of your photos, professional or amateur, have a cohesive look by using a uniform filter on all of your photos. There is nothing more beautiful than a consistent feed! Case and point: @laurenconrad.
Also, check out Eric Bach’s blog, The Language of Light: How Light Alters Perception, for some tips on how to improve those Instagram photos!

Use stories to share in-the-moment and behind-the-scenes content. This strategy provides another opportunity for your followers to get to know your company’s personality and day-to-day. Get creative with your stories – post a series of videos to create a short storyline or a fun boomerang.
The discover tab gives users, and your potential followers, access to a pool of relevant content based on their existing followers and other Instagram activity. On the flip side, the discover tab provides a resource for your business. Scroll through this panel to see what competitors do on Instagram, and how your followers engage with other accounts to tweak your approach. The discover tab also allows you to find and engage with people who don’t follow your brand. By searching hashtags relevant to your business, you can find users and engage with them.
Carousel Photos
As one of Instagram’s newer features, the carousel photo feature allows users to post multiple images in one post. Strategically order your photos; display your strongest, most compelling photo first, followed by supporting images. Or, use the left/right swipes to create a larger, continuous image, like @subway.

Jump-start your business’ Instagram presence by following some of these tips and tricks. Stay tuned to the A. Bright Idea blog for more advice on how to keep your social media presence on brand, relevant and an integral part of your overall communications strategy.

Cobey Dietrich

If you feel inspired to celebrate Boss’s Day on October 16, it’s likely because your supervisor is a true leader and not just a boss.

While National Boss’s Day, or National Boss Day as originally named, began in 1958 when a woman working for her father at his insurance office wanted to designate a day for employees to show appreciation and recognize the hard work of their supervisors, we hope to inspire true leaders and not just bosses today.

There are important differences between a leader and a boss:

  • A leader provides employees with the skills and tools to accomplish the task; a boss dictates how to do the task.
  • A leader puts the attention on the team; a boss makes herself the center of attention.
  • A leader earns respect; a boss demands it.
  • A leader gives up time and credit to help others; a boss requires sacrifice from others and takes the credit.
  • A leader builds others up; a boss climbs over others to get to the top.

Those leadership traits describe our Brightest Light, Founder and CEO Anita Brightman. Working alongside Anita for the past 15 years, her mentoring has not only led to my personal and professional growth, but also guided my own leadership approach. By helping others find happiness in their careers so they truly love what they do, our clients, employees and our entire A. Bright Idea family reap the rewards.

Her leadership traits don’t end here at the agency. I’ve watched her give personal time to mentor young entrepreneurs and others in our profession through the Public Relations Society of America’s College of Fellows. In doing so, her reputation as a leader continues to flourish as everyone jumps at the chance to work with Anita and seek her expert input.

From our perspective, the greatest gift an employee can give on Boss’s Day is to exemplify those qualities a leader has poured into you. At A. Bright Idea, our team embraces and exudes leadership on client projects and work with colleagues – that’s something we celebrate every day.

Take time today, and every day, to thank those in your life who embody leadership qualities, not just your boss, but all those who seek to guide and inspire by putting leadership into action.

Shawn Nesaw

Marketers always look for new and exciting ways to reach their customers and grow their brand. In recent years, while digital advertising has seen steady growth, standing out from the din of every other advertisement out there can be a challenge.

For businesses looking to target audiences towards the bottom of the sales funnel, converting interests into sales, podcast advertising might be a worthwhile option as part of a strategic advertising effort. Podcasts target a niche, captive audience to which a brand can push its product or service directly into the ears of listeners interested in first, the podcast content, and second, products or services that meet a need and/or match the content of the show.

Any effective advertising campaign works through the sales funnel to figure out where customers are along their buying journey and how to get them to convert while spending as little as possible per conversion. TV, radio and digital ads all play important roles throughout the sales funnel from building awareness and interest to conversions. The old saying, never put all your eggs in one basket, holds true in advertising. Use podcasts in conjunction with other mediums to ensure your brand hits a wide range of people in the funnel.

As podcasts continue to grow as an important and worthwhile medium for marketers and brands, businesses must understand what makes a podcast advertisement unique. Once you’ve gained a better understanding of the medium, consider if your business and podcasts are right for each other.

Here’s what you need to know about podcasts before adding the tool to your advertising strategy.

  1. Trusted voice – If there’s one thing podcast listeners have in common, it’s their trust in the host. Podcast hosts fall into the influencer category. The audience views podcast hosts as experts and their shows are a manifestation of their interests and expertise. By creating engaging content audiences come back for repeatedly, they build an audience that genuinely trusts them. It’s that trust that plays well for advertisers. Most ads use live reads, delivered directly by the host at the beginning (pre-roll) or midway (mid-roll) through the show. Live reads, similar to radio, come across like a recommendation from a friend with an authentic feel. Considering your audience, find podcasts/hosts that pair well with your product or service. If their show, voice and audience all match your organization’s brand and target audience, you’ve found a good fit.
  2. The product/service – If you want to advertise on podcasts, you need a product with a broad user base. This is due to the fact that podcasts have a fairly wide range of demographics in their audience. Ads for essentials like underwear, razors, beds and other products are the norm on podcasts because just about everyone uses them. Pairing the right product with the right audience allows the brand to reach more potential customers. A podcast framed around exercise, with a core audience of health enthusiasts, is more likely to advertise jump ropes, foam rollers and Whey protein than it would a new brand of coffee or an online flower delivery service.
  3. A special offer – It’s true, sometimes you just can’t pass up a sale. Podcast ads not only win over audiences with trusted recommendations and useful products, but they almost always tack on a special offer code at checkout. Brands will offer podcast listeners an even deeper discount to further entice on-the-fence buyers.

Podcasts have risen in popularity over the past decade, gaining the attention of brands and marketers who happily fill the podcast niche with quality ads reaching dedicated audiences, something difficult to come by these days. Consider adding this strategy to your marketing toolbox when the brand, audience and budget match up with what podcasts have to offer.

Shawn Nesaw

Social media moves fast. One minute you’re “poking” someone on Facebook (that’s actually still a feature) and the next you’re responding to a direct message using face filters and emojis on Instagram.

This blog keeps you up-to-date with all the new features social media has to offer. Instagram and LinkedIn introduced great enhancements in July. Read more about the new features below and try them out today.

Instagram

Earlier this month, Instagram rolled out a new feature allowing users to send photos or video replies to stories posted by those you follow. When watching a story, tap the camera button at the bottom of the screen to use the creative tools in the camera such as boomerang, face filters and stickers. When someone replies to your story with a photo or video, you’ll see it in your direct message inbox.

This new feature plays well for friends on Instagram but is also possible for business use. Customers and brand advocates now have the opportunity to engage with your brand using other creative means. Businesses could hold a contest to encourage engagement by awarding a prize for the best creative response to a section of your story.

LinkedIn

Throughout the month of July, LinkedIn released several great new features.

  • You can now customize the notifications you receive with new options including muting, turning off or even unfollowing.
  • It’s now possible to add up to nine photos in a post. Much like Facebook, LinkedIn lays out the photos in a collage. Post multiple photos from an event such as a meeting, conference, or volunteer day to further build either your personal brand or your business brand.
  • LinkedIn now provides insights about your audience. When you post an article or update, LinkedIn provides details about the employers of your target audience, their job titles and how they found your post. You can also see the number of people who reshared your post and who they are.

In the coming months, users will be able to record and share video directly in the LinkedIn mobile app. LinkedIn continues to provide useful features to professionally enhance a personal and business presence.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to update Instagram and LinkedIn apps by accessing the Google Play or the Apple App stores.

Looking Ahead

Check back next month for more social updates with the Social Scoop. Past issues also offer updates to ensure you have all the info you need to succeed.

 

 

 

 

Katie Bouloubassis

Businesses constantly test new ways to connect with their customers. Traditionally, surveys, newsletters and courtesy follow-up calls served as key methods for businesses to connect with customers. While these strategies still hold value, new outreach methods now take center stage thanks to social media. According to Statista.com, 81% of the U.S. population uses social media in some form.

Smart, social-savvy businesses are now using the power of one social media feature, direct messaging, to connect more efficiently with their current and potential customers by breaking through the clutter.

Direct messaging, or DM as it’s commonly referred to, is available on all major social media platforms. Similar to sending a text message to a friend, a direct message allows you to send a private message to a person directly to their inbox, instead of posting on their social feed. DM achieves most of its popularity on Twitter and Instagram.

Businesses use DM to:

  • Connect with new followers and point them to the content or a product on their website
  • Ask questions about buying experience or quality of service
  • Answer questions customers ask on social media
  • Handle negative feedback or complaints privately instead of in the public feed
  • Send targeted messages to different types of followers
  • Request user-generated content for social media feeds

To add to the DM experience, personalize messages using the customer’s name or handle. Also, if you have a large audience list to reach with the same message, create a document with consistent messages you can easily transfer into a DM to help save time and maximize efficiency.

The images below illustrate a few sample implementation strategies for using DM.

Relationship building with new followers

To begin the relationship with a new follower, depending on the platform, a DM may take the form of something like the photo to the right.


Handling negative feedback

To handle a negative comment or feedback, acknowledge the communication and direct the conversation off of social media with a DM like this:

ABI: “We appreciate your feedback and want to learn more about the issue to discuss how we can help ensure the best service possible. Let’s set up a time we can discuss over the phone.”


Soliciting user-generated content

If your fans post great photos of your product and tag your company, use DM to ask for permission to use their photos on your feed. Engaging in this way creates customer loyalty and allows you to harness the power user-generated content. That DM might read something like the photo to the right.

[Pro-tip: If they say “yes,” thank them and make sure to give them credit for the photo in your post, e.g., (📷: @TomEdison96)]


Direct Messages serve as a great way to personally reach customers on social media. While some may scoff at the idea saying, “It’s too intrusive,” DM allows you to speak directly to your target audience. If your business would like to initiate conversations and build relationships with current and potential customers, DM provides a simple, personal touch-point that can lead to new followers, customers or clients.

Test out your DM skills with us! Send us a message via Twitter DM or any other social platform. Let’s start the conversation!

Twitter: @aBrightIdea96
Instagram: @abrightidea
Facebook: A. Bright Idea Advertising & Public Relations @abrightidea

Happy messaging!

Shawn Nesaw

Keeping up with all the updates to each social media platform is a daunting task. With no set schedule for updates, some channels have multiple updates in one month and zero updates in another. Similarly, some channels have numerous new additions in one update, while others don’t.

With social media constantly evolving, it’s imperative for social media pros to stay up to date with the latest from each platform so they can stay ahead of the curve and use new features to address communication goals as soon as possible. Let’s get right into it – here is the June social media update round-up.

Facebook 

June saw a big improvement to Facebook Live video with the implementation of closed captioning. This update provides more access to Facebook Live video for people with hearing impairments. For this feature to work, turn on captioning settings and the captions will automatically appear in your live video.

Safety Check was updated with four new features:

    • Fundraising
    • Expanding community help
    • Sharing a personal note when completing a safety check-in is completed
    • Introducing crisis descriptions

Facebook Messenger’s video chat in feature also received an update to now include animated reactions, filters, masks, effects and the ability to take screenshots of your video chat.

 

Instagram 

We all grow and change and so do our Instagram feeds. The new Archive feature, introduced in June, allows users to move photos previously shared on your feed into Archive where only you can see them.

If you change your mind, select “show on profile ” and the image will reappear in its original spot. Just click the circle arrow in the top right corner of the app to start archiving.

Also rolled out in June, after you go live on Instagram,  you are prompted to share a replay on your Instagram Story to let more people catch up on what they missed.

 

Twitter

In June, Twitter rolled out new features for businesses allowing them to add buttons to drive actions in Direct Messages (DM).

Probably the biggest change in June across all platforms was the Twitter facelift. This generous and well-deserved update to the Twitter user interface (UI) this month showed users that Twitter is still a viable social media player and that it listens to its users. Without getting too technical, here are the new changes to Twitter.

Click to watch
  • Slide right to access your profile, additional accounts, settings and more.
  • Refined the typography throughout the app so headlines are bolder and distinct from the rest of the text in your feed.
  • Round profile pics
  • The icons and the reply button changed from an arrow to a speech bubble and all the icons were slimmed down.

 

Snapchat

Snapchat unveiled Snap Map, which allows users to see what people are up to around the world by using the new maps feature. Pinch on the screen to zoom out and view the map. This feature allows you to also select your location settings so you can decide who can see your location while you are on the app.

Additionally, Snapchat introduced the ability to design custom Geofilters right in the app for any special occasion – birthdays, anniversary parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc. Until now, this ability was reserved for desktop and designers. To get started, tap “On-Demand Geofilters” in Settings. Pricing for Geofilters starts at $5.99 in the app.

 

LinkedIn

LinkedIn received a few updates at once to improve the mobile experience. Now, you can see your connection history. Use this new feature to add some personal detail when you reach out.

Another new feature, Search Appearances, allows you to see how many people found you in search and the companies and job titles of the people searching for you.

Three other minor changes to the platform include:

  • Implementation of a new drag and drop feature allowing you to easily reorganize volunteer and education sections of your profile
  • Ability to add an image to any comment across the LinkedIn platform, when words just won’t do
  • Provide quick reply messages for when you want to reply, but don’t have the time

If you do not see these updates on your phone, go to the App Store or Google Play Store and update the apps to receive the latest features and check back next month for another roundup of social media updates.

Shawn Nesaw

Today, social media is a critical component of the marketing strategy for most businesses. This phenomenon shouldn’t be surprising, as more than 50 million active small business pages exist (Brandwatch.com) on Facebook alone. While there is nothing our social media experts love more than to see businesses grasp the powerful nature of a social media presence, balance is key. When overindulging, it’s easy to spread your content thin across several channels.

The saying “jack of all trades, master of none,” accurately describes this craze. Many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) create four to five social media accounts with the thought, “If I’m on these social media platforms, I’ll have more opportunity to communicate to our audience.” While a presence on more social channels does provide SMBs increased audience exposure opportunities, maintaining a legitimate presence on each platform is a two-way street. If SMBs publish content frequently but fall short when it comes time to respond and engage audiences past the initial post, audiences will look elsewhere for content.

All too often when a new social media platform hits the market, the first thought is to immediately engage. It’s the “shiny new toy” effect of which Snapchat illustrates best. Many SMB’s who target younger audiences thought Snapchat would be the right channel and for some it was, but for most, it wasn’t. Snapchat takes time to learn, produce content and grow an audience. Yes, Snapchat is great for targeting a younger demographic, but if the SMB doesn’t have a Snapchat strategic plan in place, Snapchat isn’t going to necessarily work.

Whether it’s Snapchat, Instagram or even Facebook, SMBs should look at their goals and think strategically. Consider the following criteria when selecting the appropriate channel:

  • Does the channel help meet communication goals?
  • Does your business have the capacity to produce the necessary content to effectively reach the audience?
  • Will you be able to reach and engage your audience on this channel?
  • Do you have a real reason for being part of that social community?

If you answered “yes” to the above criteria, then the social channel in question might be a good fit for your business.

The last thing you want to do is make a semi-enthusiastic commitment to a channel, which ultimately becomes just a waste of time and resources, two things no business can afford. The truth of the matter is, it’s not necessary to be on every social channel.

Before diving in, here’s what you need to know about each social channel.

 

After considering those two channels, we recommend the following social channels after careful consideration of the target audience, brand goals and ability to maintain the channel. Use the descriptions below to help guide you towards the social channels that work best.

Social media shouldn’t be a struggle; it should be fun. It’s where you get an opportunity to talk about your brand, show people who you are and engage audiences you may have otherwise missed. Building your brand on social media is crucial for success in today’s marketplace so choose the social channels that meet your business goals.

Tell us how you engage your audiences through social media by commenting below or engage with us on social media. Let’s start the conversation.

Sources: Social Media Today and Hootsuite

Teri O'Neal

No one likes to think about the worst. Crisis communication planning remains a topic that many businesses and organizations would rather not think about when it is not needed. At its core, the perception of crisis communications screams negativity and causes people to think about catastrophic disasters. The response for most, albeit the wrong answer, typically is to bury one’s head in the sand.

However, crisis communications boils down to two basic principles: adequate planning and building relationships. Three mantras in a crisis all surround the plan and the people: prepare for the worst, hope for the best and expect the unexpected.

Prepare for the worst

  1. Know and understand your business and any possible threats against it.
  2. Develop relationships with those media and organizational allies, which could assist you in an emergency.
  3. Identify the spokespeople, who will control the message during a crisis.
  4. Prepare your virtual “go bag.” Gather all social media and website password and logins, as well as any standard operating procedures for efficiency in a crisis.

Hope for the best

  1. Develop the key messaging necessary to allow spokespeople and staff to speak with one voice about the company, accentuating the positive and allowing potentially negative questions to circle back to a key message.
  2. Train your staff on delivering exceptional interviews and teaching the concept of bridging and redirection. This can benefit your organization in good times and bad.
  3. Build trust by ensuring you circle the wagons immediately during a crisis to allow your internal audience, the staff, know they remain the priority.

Expect the unexpected

  1. Remain flexible in your plan to allow for quick-turn changes. A crisis rarely looks the same twice, so leave room in your plan to adjust, when needed.
  2. Anticipate a fluid situation, which often lasts longer than expected. Back up your plans to allow for a longer situation. Avoid burnout, if possible!
  3. During a crisis, communicate early and often. If you leave a void, expect your adversaries to fill it.

Post-event evaluation remains an essential main component of a solid crisis communications plan, though often is the component left undone. The evaluation plan is usually placed boldly at the end of the plan awaiting execution. Most practitioners and business owners, ready to put the negative event behind them, avoid it like the plague.

Ideally, conducting a hot wash of the event and the application of the plan immediately following the event leads to key adjustments to improve the execution. Take the time to assemble the team, even the external partners, if possible, to discuss the execution and brainstorm ideas to make it better for the future.

Our work with clients allows us to assist in planning for the unknown and developing key relationships with people and organizations, which ultimately leads to better responses during a negative event while managing crisis PR effectively.

What tools do you have in your crisis communications toolbox? Share with us by commenting below.

Kristie Sheppard

Marketing your small winery can seem overwhelming and challenging, especially for those small shops with just one, or maybe a few employees. During harvest, there is never enough time to even think about marketing, and by the time you get everything else done from, bottling to distribution, it’s almost harvest again! However, you know creative and customer-focused marketing is critical to the success of your winery.

Adding a few simple tools to your marketing toolbox can assist in strategically and successfully promoting your wine brand. Even a minimal time investment pays huge dividends with the following tips.

  1. Know your audience. Defining your target audience is the first step in effective marketing. Keep in mind your audience is much larger than just wine drinkers. Analyze and organize your current customer base by categories, such as millennials, baby boomers, women or wine drinkers who are new to enjoying wine.
  2. Define your message. Determine a key message to connect your brand with each group of ideal customers. The message should be clear, direct and consistently used so it resonates with potential customers. For example, if your millennial audience group is interested in scores from Parker, make sure your messaging includes your recent ratings. Key messages help tell your story to compel your audience to take action.
  3. Get to know the media. Sending a press release about your upcoming winemaker dinner to the local food and wine critic without building a relationship with him/her will appear self-serving and may get pushed aside. Build a relationship with wine writers and influencers. Read their stories, engage with them on social media platforms and share their stories. Are you getting ready to promote a new wine and want some press? Invite the writer to a private tasting before the release to allow for personalized face time. Prepare materials in advance to make packaging the story easy for the reporter; include photos, content and potential alternate interview contacts.
  4. Engage on social media. Social media used to be about likes and followers. Now, engagement determines success- how many people, when they see your Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram post, actually like, share, or comment on that post. Engagement is a two-way conversation. The best way to get engagement is to give some as well. Scrolling through your social media feeds for 10 -15 minutes per day looking for like-minded brands, wine influencers and your customers so you can comment, like and share their posts, will show your investment in the industry. Social interaction creates an awareness of your brand with audiences, who may become followers or customers. Social engagement will keep you in the minds of your customers and strengthen your consumer-producer relationship. Wineries can be hesitant to post on social media because of the Federal Trade Commission laws on advertising to minors, but with advances in data collection on most of the major platforms, you can confidently and legally promote your brand.
  5. Kieran Robinson Wines’ Sparkling Brigade is eye catching and meaningful.

    Let the label tell the brand’s story. If your wine is in retail shops or on display at a restaurant, the packaging is your most valuable asset. You need a label that stands out from the crowd, but also represents your brand and identity. Make sure your key message is translated into the label through visuals or text.

  6. Utilize influencers. Invite top wine influencers to a tasting. Engage with them on social media. Meg Maker, Amy Lieberfarb, Jancis Robinson, Jon Thorson and Antonio Galloni are just a few, but like we mention in Tip #1, do your research to make sure chosen influencers are appropriate for your brand.
  7. Participate in tasting events. For most small producers, providing complimentary cases and cases of wine to a special event may put a big dent in your potential sales, but don’t underestimate the value of attending these events. Yes, you will definitely get quite a few people who are attending the event just to get intoxicated. You will also get serious wine drinkers and media. Many tasting events host a trade/media hour prior to the general public. This is your opportunity to meet media face-to-face and make a lasting impression. Do your research about tasting opportunities. Find out what reporters and influencers have attended in the past. Ask fellow wineries if they have participated and what their thoughts are.

These cost-effective and simple tips will be the start to successfully marketing your winery. We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences about wine marketing. Comment or share on social media and tag A. Bright Idea so we can reply!

Ben Ford

Like others, we’re ready to pack up for the beach, fire up the grill and break out the Frisbee for this Memorial Day weekend.

For most Americans, the holiday unofficially kicks off our summer season. To many of us, summer means adventure. In our rush to fun and adventure, however, we also intend to take a moment to remember the reason for the holiday.

Often confused with Veterans Day, Memorial Day honors those who died in the nation’s defense, who gave, as President Lincoln so eloquently described, “the last full measure of devotion.” Lincoln spoke those words, part of the Gettysburg Address, at the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery in Pennsylvania. In 1868, the tradition then known as Decoration Day began with Union veterans and the families of the honored dead paying their respects at cemeteries.

No one understands Memorial Day better than our active military. Our clients at Fort Detrick and Aberdeen Proving Ground will hold their Memorial Day ceremonies with an understanding of the long line of sacrifices that stretches back throughout our nation’s history.

Aberdeen Proving Ground will dedicate a new memorial monument on May 31 at Festival Park in Aberdeen. The monument’s dedication reads, “This monument stands as a tribute to the Department of Defense civilians, military service members and support contractors of Aberdeen Proving Ground and the former Edgewood Arsenal … we honor their lives and their contributions to our national defense. Each gave the last full measure of devotion while performing their duties.”

At Memorial Day ceremonies, it is traditional for a moment of silence to remember the dead. That silence speaks volumes.

During World War II, newspaper columnist Ernie Pyle painted pictures with his words of life on the ground with the infantry. His most famous column, however, chronicled the death of Captain Waskow and the heartbreak soldiers experienced when faced with the deaths of their comrades and the power of silent tributes.

Pyle described how during a hard stretch of fighting in the Italian mountains the Army hired Italian muleskinners to carry the bodies of fallen Americans down the mountainside to a collection point at the bottom where Pyle waited with other soldiers.

Friends of the deceased took an opportunity during a break in the fighting to see their fallen comrades.

“Then the first man squatted down, and he reached down and took the dead hand [of Captain Waskow], and he sat there for a full five minutes, holding the dead hand in his own and looking intently into the dead face, and he never uttered a sound all the time he sat there. And finally he put the hand down, and then reached up and gently straightened the points of the captain’s shirt collar, and then he sort of rearranged the tattered edges of his uniform around the wound. And then he got up and walked away down the road in the moonlight, all alone.”

We live in peace, free of fascism because soldiers like Captain Waskow went to war and did their duty. They fought knowing they faced death, and they carried out their job. Imagine going to work at your office and the person in the cubicle next to you was killed, and you must carry on. Then the next day, you lose three more friends down the hall from you, and the replacement in the cubicle next to you who you just met. And you must still carry on.

We cannot truly honor those soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country because their actions honored them far beyond what we are capable. We can only pay our respects for what they gave to our nation.

We can and should enjoy our Memorial Day weekend. We should live our lives happily and fully because Captain Waskow and many others died to assure us our freedom to do so. We should also give pause to remember and thank them for that sacrifice.