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Please Don’t Say Happy Memorial Day

Please Don’t Say Happy Memorial Day


Memorial Day — it really is more than an excuse for a car sale, a white sale, or a barbecue. If you are here in the DC area, it is also more than a huge traffic jam or enormous crowds on Metro.  Nor is this Veterans Day, when all veterans are to be thanked for their service.  And please, don’t wish anyone a Happy Memorial Day!

This is Memorial Day, a day to remember those of our nation’s military who have died in the service of their country, from Lexington to Valley Forge, from Bull Run to Gettysburg, Iwo Jima to Normandy, Inchon to the Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sahn to Saigon, Kuwait to Najaf, and Kabul to Laghman.  These were the sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, friends and lovers who put on the uniform and went to war and who didn’t return.

This day, that began as Decoration Day in the deep South after the Civil War, was designed as a dedication to the fallen, a day of reflection, gatherings at cemeteries and memorials and of course, in our own very American way, a day for parades. Again in our all-American way, it has become associated with sales, a reason for a day off and as the first day of summer, the day the local pools open for swimming.  We hear “Happy Memorial Day” chirped at us by cheerful sales people as we check out of the local store — and for some, it is inconceivable that anyone could be “happy” on this solemn day.  We may celebrate the life of the fallen comrades, the life of the son or daughter, remember the life of the husband or wife, but I don’t think my friend Karen will be “happy” on Monday when we gather to remember her beloved son.

For those of us in the military community, we remember our friends, our family members. We remember those whose funerals we attended, the memorial services when we heard the name of the fallen called out three times.  I remember the fresh faces solemnly staring out in the pictures next to the flag-draped coffin, the families in the front row sitting in stunned silence.

The Army “Old Guard” began the commemorations with the planting of flags at Arlington National Cemetery (Flags In).  Tourists in their groups see the young soldiers in their ACUs with their backpacks full of the little flags and stop to watch them measure with their booted foot against the stone. This year, it took three hours to place a flag before each stone.

There will be ceremonies at veterans cemeteries around the country and overseas and a moment of silence, the National Moment of Remembrance, at 3 pm local time.  Rolling Thunder will be roaring through DC from the Pentagon on Sunday for the 25th Anniversary of the Run and they are expecting half a million bikes.

However you remember, please take a moment to remember the real reason for Memorial Day.  As Judy Gerber asked, you can create a Memorial Garden, plant a tree in memory of those who have fallen in service to their country.  No matter your political stance, no matter your feelings about current conflicts, Memorial Day is to remember those who died, and their families.

It’s not a Happy Memorial Day.


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Photo used with permission of "Married to the Army"

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4:43PM PDT on Jul 16, 2014

You left out the Cold War, my dear. Its boundaries extend further than any of us realize.

9:46AM PDT on May 26, 2014

George G. - You forgot one detail, England and by virtue of that, all her colonies, declared war on Germany not the other way. No, I don't believe Hitler would have stopped until he took on the whole of Europe but it's always presumed England was sitting their quietly and Hitler declared war on her.

England was also supplied Hitler with some his finer plans, concentration camps during the Boer War and they had a predilection for a scorched earth policy. Not Jolly Ol' England as we see her now but a very powerful and very vicious enemy. Look at Palestine after WWII or how they returned Jewish prisoners to the same camps they'd recently been liberated from though with better rations.

The reason I'm mentioning any of this that everyone is always jumping on the Yanks. They were late to both I and II and we needed the help. This current cluster...k is outrageous but then all wars are even though some are needed unfortunately.

9:43AM PDT on May 25, 2014

I know this is an old article but man it almost gave me cancer reading it. I'm a 100% disabled Marine and have had many around me fall. Nobody ever said you had to be sad to remember. Even at my funeral I want there be kegs and liquor. I'm sorry but if you want the ones you love sit and cry for you once a year you're an ass. Memorial day is a day of remembrance but not sadness.

1:49AM PST on Mar 5, 2013

Thanks for the truth......and bless all our troops and those who gave their lives for our freedoms!

3:56AM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

The history of Humanity, if one may call it that is marked by which war was on at the moment.

3:55AM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

The history of Humanity, if one may call it that is marked by which war was on at the moment.

3:49AM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

Ain't that the truth! From an old, disabled Vietnam vet. Instead of celebrating, try going to a VA hospital, where the price of freedom can be seen. When you depart, tell me how much like celbrating you still feel like doing, and then if you still feel like firing up the grill, go ahead and throw a little "Hamburger Hill" on it!

4:08AM PDT on May 30, 2012

Lee W, your soldiers do not protect me! Many of their actions and certainly their illegal occupations and the many illegal wars have only served to make the world we all live in a much more dangerous, unstable place.

Your military leaders (past and present) presidents (past and present) including many other heads of states plus the massive US military industrial machine only serve the following:- profit, State Sponsored Terrorism and the spread of a disastrous American foreign policy that has caused the death of 100's of thousands of innocent civilians since the end of WWII.

I am not blind to the fact that fallen soldiers leave behind loved ones. But you have to ask yourself why put on a military uniform when all the wars of the past 60+ years have had nothing to do with making our world a safer place; quite the contrary.

1:32AM PDT on May 30, 2012

@Shan D. it's called greed.

1:19AM PDT on May 30, 2012

If this is supposed to be such a solemn day, why do you allow stores to be open? Many Canadian communities close their stores until noon on Remembrance Day so people can attend the Ceremonies if they wish, and so the soldiers - both dead and alive - will not be disrespected. It would never occur to me to go shopping on that day, or do anything except watch the ceremonies from Parliament Hill and perform the Act of Remembrance.

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