That is a line you have probably heard a bunch of times and will hear many more times now that Memorial Day is once again upon us. A day that many people associate with a long weekend, cook-outs, and thanking soldiers for their service. We all can use the extra day off of work, everyone loves a good cook-out, and service members and veterans appreciate acknowledgment and gratitude. The true meaning of Memorial Day, however, is for honoring the memory of those who have lost their lives, the ultimate sacrifice in service of the country.
Memorial Day Decorations?
We started celebrating “Memorial Day” officially in 1971, though it was observed shortly after the Civil War. Known as Decoration Day then, Americans would take the day to decorate the graves of the fallen with flowers. The tradition holds today, with many Americans taking the time to visit cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, and participating in Memorial Day parades. Memorial Day is also the unofficial beginning to the summer season, hence all the grilling.
Off the Memorial Day Track
In addition to those who only think of this time of year as a reason for cook-outs and days off, there are several other problems myself and many of my fellow veterans see on this weekend. The first being that in the last several years it seems that thanking a soldier, sailor, marine, airman, for their service is that it has become trendy; so many times this weekend you will see many hashtags in reference to Memorial Day. There are even websites about which hashtags to use to “Get Seen!”. Holidays such as this are about remembrance, not just to be used for a popularity contest and to get likes. If you truly want to thank a service member or veteran for their service, just find one and say thank you, we are not that hard to find.
But please save your hashtags and empty gratitude. And for the love of god, do not say “Happy” Memorial Day! It is a time for remembrance, as there is not much that is happy about it to many. However, when remembering those who have been lost, as the saying goes, “Do not mourn their loss, but celebrate their lives!”
This holiday isn’t about mourning. It is about celebrating our servicemembers who are representative of that key American trait…personal sacrifice
A More Personal Holiday
This time last year, Memorial Day became even more personal to me than I could have ever imagined. I lost one of my blood-brothers last Memorial Day. While he never served in the military, he was one of my biggest supporters the whole time I was in the army. So while Memorial Day is to remember fallen soldiers, we have to remember the family members, too. Spouses and other family members are connected to service members and may have some of the same issues also.
If you have served, you more than likely know someone who has been lost. In today’s America, there is something else to consider, though. Some of us that did come home still struggle, especially with their memories of fallen comrades. This is a great time to reach out to other soldiers and vets that you know. Sometimes, hearing a familiar voice or knowing there is someone out there is enough. And hearing from those going through the same tough times can be a big morale booster.
So enjoy your long weekend and cook-out as planned. Just take a moment to remember those who made it possible because of their ultimate sacrifice. And please keep your hashtags to yourself.