On Memorial Day, remembering those left behind

Dennis and Donna Elm receive the American flag that had draped the casket of their son, U.S. Army Specialist Michael D. Elm of Phoenix, Ariz., October 31, 2011 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. Specialist Elm died during his first deployment in Khowst, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered from an IED attack on his unit. Alex Wong/Getty Images

(CBS News) On this day, we remember those who gave their lives for their country. But let us also remember the families they left behind.

In 1972 Vice President Biden lost his wife and infant daughter in a horrible car wreck, and Friday he talked to a group of military families about the kind of loss that only those who have experienced it can ever really comprehend:

"They were Christmas shopping and a tractor trailer broadsided them. And in one instant killed two of them, and, well, I have to tell you: I used to resent - I knew people meant well - they'd come up to me and say, 'Joe, I know how you feel.' I knew they meant well, I knew they were genuine, but you knew they didn't have any damn idea. Right? Isn't that true?

That, that black hole you feel in your chest like you're being sucked back into it. For the first time in my life, I understood how someone could consciously decide to commit suicide - not because they were deranged, not because they were nuts, [but] because they'd been to the top of the mountain and they just knew in their heart they'd never get there again, that there was never going to get, never going to be, that way ever again.

There will come a day, I promise you and your parents as well, that the thought of your son or daughter or your husband or wife will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen.

My prayer for you is that day will come sooner than later."

May that be the wish, the prayer, from each of us on this Memorial Day.

  • Bob Schieffer On Twitter»

    Bob Schieffer is CBS News' chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation.

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