For many people nationwide, Memorial Day is associated with a weekend at the lake or beach, cookouts with friends and family, and nearly endless shopping sprees.
For Fred Minnick, the holiday looks much different than that.
The 44-year-old war veteran spent a year in Kuwait and Iraq in 2004 as an Army photojournalist.
In an interview with Fox News Digital, Minnick said he photographed an array of incidents and events — everything from car bombs that killed civilians to politicians greeting civilians and schools being built.
“In Iraq, I traveled all over the country with special forces, infantry, Strykers, Civil Affairs and Iraqi forces documenting the war with my camera,” he said.
Now a resident of Louisville, Kentucky, he said returning home from war was a war in and of itself — he said that at one point, he was on the verge of suicide, homelessness and incarceration.
“When I first came home, so much of being a veteran was fighting a new war,” he said.
It was “a war within me caused by the memories of war and loss of friends,” he said.
Minnick said in order to move forward, he had to process the demons within.
“People died for this country — remember them.”
Through years of therapy, Minnick was able to deal with his PTSD through accepting his experience — and his new life — for what it was, he said.
With Memorial Day nearly here, Minnick admitted that he used to get frustrated with the cliché meanings of the day — such as barbecues, boat parties and mattress sales.
“If I had not gotten therapy, I would have eventually thrown a brick through a car dealership promoting 0% car deals,” he recalled.
Minnick said the real meaning of Memorial Day is to honor our fallen heroes, not to thank veterans — noting there is little education happening on the day today.
“This is not Veterans Day … This day is about reflecting and honoring the people who died in service of their country — the United States of America,” he said.
Minnick said he’s found strength on Memorial Day holidays of the past by connecting with former military friends — saying he plans to spend his holiday learning about heroes from across the country and calling his friends to talk about what the day means.
“I hug them tight and [will] probably cry,” he said.
The veteran said he hopes Americans can take just an hour of their holiday to reflect and remember the fallen heroes who fought for this country.
“People died for this country; remember them.”
Minnick said that to him, being a veteran means he carries an internal armor with him every day — noting that the military gave him confidence toward everything he’s ever needed.
“I’ve walked the path with great men and women who were relentless in battle and comforting in loss,” he said.
“The truth is, for many of us, every day is Memorial Day.”