Pete Hegseth's Memorial Day message: Do something to remember the fallen and pass it on to your kids

Q: How can Americans best honor Memorial Day?

A: I think the best way to honor Memorial Day is to live worthy of the sacrifice that others made for our freedom. I think that’s a daily thing. It’s not just one day, on Memorial Day.

Maar, for Memorial Day, I look at it two ways. Een, make sure you do something intentional to remember the fallen. And then pass that on to your kids, the people you can influence. And find a Memorial Day event in your community to go support, and to personalize the day. And if you can’t, then make sure you find time to sit your kids or your grandkids down and explain to them the concept of Memorial Day, the size and scope of the sacrifice that has been paid at the altar of freedom for them, so they understand the appreciation for them and why it’s so special. It’s not a mattress sale day, it’s much bigger than that.

And the second thing is, have a big ol’ party. Celebrate the day, their lives. Those who didn’t make it back from the battlefield would want those who did to enjoy the day, to enjoy the family, enjoy their freedoms.

Q: How did your service in the military change your view of Memorial Day?

A: It changed it completely. Everyone who served in combat knows that just one bullet, one IED, one RPG that doesn’t go off or does go off – that was my case, an RPG that didn’t explode – that’s the only thing that separates Veterans Day from Memorial Day. It could have been me. It could have been any other number of vets from any generation. So you realize how human, how fragile, how much luck goes into whether or not you’re a Veterans Day person or a Memorial Day person.

En natuurlik, the personal soldiers, mans, and women you served with, who did not come back you think about. It completely imprints on your soul a reminder daily of the power of sacrifice and the legions, all the way back to 1775 on bridges at Lexington and Concord, the free citizens who were willing to put their life on the line for a set of principles that people should live free.

Q: You mentioned people you served with – is there anyone in particular from your time of service you remember fondly?

A: Ja, Jorge Oliveira. He and I served together in Guantanamo Bay, he was in my platoon. He was then a specialist. And he was one of the nicest, hardwerkend, salt of the earth, great guys. And he would run through a wall for you, was smart and committed. He went on to deploy again to Afghanistan, I wasn’t in his unit in Afghanistan, we were in different units then. But I was in Afghanistan in a different part of Afghanistan when I got word that he had been killed.

It just hits you like a ton of bricks. He was a police officer in his community, absolutely beloved. A guardsman who was also a police officer, so service was in his blood. He is one I remember.

Q: What inspired you to want to serve your country?

A: It really was service – in fact, it was a Memorial Day parade that I in many ways point to. A small town of Wanamingo, my parents grew up in southern Minnesota, and they would have parades on a number of occasions – like Fourth of July – but the one that’s imprinted on me the most is a Memorial Day parade. It’s a tiny farm town in southern Minnesota, and all the vets would line up and walk down the wide main street, and all of the town would be lined up on the side, and you watch these older vets, and younger vets, Gulf War veterans, walk down the street. It was just a handful, but the reverence the town had, standing up on the side, saluting and clapping. I just remember looking at those men and saying ‘Wow, they’ve done something special. Something bigger than just this town, or just their family. They were willing to put on a uniform and do dangerous things for me,’ and I was just a kid.

En dan, natuurlik, the Memorial Day parade ends down at Memorial Park, and they memorialized the men of this town, and when you hear the names and start to think about the number of people from just this little town, I don’t know that I thought that then, but thinking about it, every town in America gave men like that. You add that up and it gives you a sense of the scope.

En dan, it was just sheer patriotism. My family was not political, just patriotic and faith-filled, and it just imprinted on me a desire to want to serve at some point in my life.

Q: How did your perception of military life prior to serving change after you were in the military?

A: You kind of have a Hollywood version of the military before you join. You’ve seen movies, you hear stories. The reality is a lot more difficult, it’s mostly boredom, followed by moments of adrenaline and training, and engagement. But it’s not an easy thing. You’re away from your family for months or years, you’re away from your country for months or years. You’re willingly putting yourself in really dangerous situations, but the brotherhood and the connection with other Americans of all walks of life is invaluable. I didn’t anticipate to learn what I did about America serving with these men in different units and different places who all came from completely different backgrounds but were committed to the same goal together when we stepped out of that base with our rifles and humvees and didn’t know what we would face.

I didn’t know anything about the military when I joined. I couldn’t tell you the difference between the Army and the Marine Corps, but I wouldn’t change a thing, the Army gave me a huge education.

Q: Biden has announced that he will withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by September 11, a move that has drawn heated praise and criticism. How can Americans best support our troops through this process?

A: Recognize that regardless of the outcome of what eventually happens in Afghanistan, none of it changes the sheer sacrifice and commitment of the troops that were there. Veterans of conflict do really care about the legacy of the conflicts. I remember when the black flag of ISIS came back and flew over towns that I had fought in, and the visceral reaction I had to that feeling of ‘all that, and we gave it back to the Islamists,’ it was maddening. It made me angry. And I wanted to do something about it.

I think in Afghanistan there’s a bit less of that connection just because it’s gone on so long and it’s recognized, they call it a graveyard of empires for a reason. It’s an intractable geography and tribal communities, and just so different than anything we encounter in the West, that our expectations shifted and the recognition that the outcome is going to be in the hands of the Afghans.

I think we can learn a lot of lessons from how we fought these wars. The stupid things we did, and the foolish ways we thought we could remake society. But that doesn’t change, in my mind, the gratitude we should have for the people who were willing to go in response to 9/11 and try to root out an evil that attacked America.

Q: Turning to Fox Nasie, hierdie week, Fox Nation is thanking active military and veterans for their service with a free year on the platform – for those taking advantage of this offer, what shows on Fox Nation would you recommend to them?

A: Eerste, I think it’s awesome that Fox Nasie is doing this. It is a reflection of the love Fox Nation has for our military, our troops, and our vets. I feel it every day. I feel it in the content, in our priorities, and it’s an absolute no-brainer. And I think everyone involved is proud to be able to provide this kind of offer because it’s the right thing to do. I hope tons of vets and military members take advantage of it and get to explore the content on the platform.

The great thing about vets is they have their interest that runs the gamut. So it’s not just that vets want to log on and watch Moderne vegters because of the conversations we have, although I think many will. I think what vets and military people will see is an alternative to the streaming services that are overwhelmingly left-wing or politically correct and reflect very different values than they have.

We made Fox Nation as a Netflix for conservatives, patriotte, and Christians, and I think they’ll encounter that kind of content. The stuff Brian Kilmeade has done on history – What Made America Great – is amazing. The Unauthorized History of Socialism, the Unauthorized History of Taxes. I am proud of my series in Israel and Jerusalem, Battle in the Holy City: Battle in the Holy Land. Obviously Modern Warriors, and there’s a lot of other veteran-related content on there too.

I’m always remiss to single things out because there’s so much good stuff there. I think once they start exploring, they’ll find, not to mention the newer stuff, whether it’s En Bongino of Tucker Carlson, I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Q: Going back to your military service, you hold two Bronze Stars and a Combat Infantryman’s Badge for your time in Irak en Afghanistan. What were your experiences like earning those awards?

A: Each was different – some of the proudest moments of his life reflected in the service that was contained in those moments, so I’m proud to own the uniform and I’m proud to work with the best and work alongside them. But no one comes home without the men on their left and their right of them who stand with them.

Individual awards are given for different reasons, and I’m certainly proud to have been awarded them. But the entirety of the moment that adds up to that are certainly imprinted on my brain, and I stay in touch with those guys very, very closely.

It’s never an expectation to be recognized for what you’re doing, it’s your job. But when you are, it’s humbling.

Q: What would your words of advice be to members of the military who are adjusting to civilian life?

A: Do everything you can to rekindle the sense of purpose that fueled your desire to serve the country. That’s usually the most difficult thing to transition from – you were a member of a team, you had a mission, you had a skill, you were trained to do it with millions of dollars of equipment, and there were lives on the line. And whether you’re a rifleman or a team leader or a squad leader or a platoon leader, or you’re fixing aircraft or refueling, you’re playing a role in accomplishing something bigger than yourself.

And then you come home and you transition, and suddenly that hierarchy isn’t there, that purpose isn’t there, the skills you had in the military don’t translate, that hierarchy isn’t there, that purpose isn’t there, the skills you had in the military don’t translate, and you’re managing what happened over there and the guys and gals to dark places.

Whether it’s an organization, or a vocation, verhoudings, or staying in touch with the guys you served with, finding that next chapter of purpose is what I have – and it could be being a father or a husband, or being a really good employee or salesman, or starting an organization, or joining an organization, or volunteering. Whatever it is, there are tons of ways in our country that America needs dedicated, patriotic, trained individuals to be engaged. So find that place where you can channel your passion into purpose, and I think that will go a long way.

Military members and veterans get one free year of Fox Nasie if they sign up now through this Memorial Day (May 31st).

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Fox News’ Laura Carrione and Jen Golotko also contributed to this report.