Please Don’t Say Happy Memorial Day

Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite, back by popular demand. It was originally posted on May 27, 2012.

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. 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 credit: Thinkstock

205 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven4 months ago

thanks for the article.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus6 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Otis Hemmings
Otis Hemmings12 months ago

A Moment of Silence. Now, what can we do to better assist our Members...

Natasha Salgado
Natasha salgado12 months ago

Yes think about it it's anything but a happy remembrance.

Sharon Tyson
sharon Tyson12 months ago

I grew up calling it Decoration Day. Thanks for the reminder to respect the solemnity of the occasion.

Ricky Thamman
Ricky T.12 months ago

I get it, I really do. However, I'm currently working with ex-soldiers in their PTSD recovering programme, and they are in praise/thankful of well wishers expressing gratitude on 'Happy Memorial Day'...

Molly D.
Molly D.about a year ago

Valid statement ! There is nothing happy about soldiers giving their lives for this country and nothing happy when a life is taken. More than likely, they suffered horrifically !

Wake up America, this is not a day to play volleyball and BBQ ! Poor animals that gave their lives also ! Military dogs and the animal you are grilling on that BBQ !

janet T.
janet t.about a year ago

My father fought in WWII and Korea, my Dad fought in Korea, Uncle fought in WWII. I absolutely cringe at Memorial day and all of those remembrances. The best thing you can do for our vets is to stop going into stupid wars that do nothing for our country. That do nothing for other countries. I do not see much good coming from the 12 or 13 year war we have had in the middle east and now they keep talking about doing MORE!!! I know a few vets rolling over in their graves!!

Hussein Khalil
Hussein Khalilabout a year ago

thanks

Anne Moran
Anne Moranabout a year ago

pam w - it's Anne m,, not me, Anne M...