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.
Photo used with permission of "Married to the Army"
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