I hope everyone has plans of enjoying this long awaited Memorial Day. As a first year teacher, the beginning of Summer is a long anticipated reprieve for a year of trials. My hopes are that, for all you, this holiday brings you rest and rejuvenation, a chance to relax to unwind, as well. Hopefully, you have some intent to spend time with your family and friends. Hopefully you enjoy a cookout, a day at the beach or just a day to sleep in. Before we do all of these things, though, I hope that we take a few moments to think about the day and, in particular, what it should mean to all Americans.
I remember one Memorial Day Weekend, not long after my service of enlistment ended with the United States Marine Corps, watching the news as the reporter visited people enjoying the break from rhythm and routine. I found myself being very annoyed by much of what I saw. That afternoon the anchors gave reports of the day for boating and the activities which citizens could partake in. They gave a weather report for the lake and reminded boaters to drink responsibly. Reporters were out interviewing revelers. There were interviews of people at the parks, the lake or movie theater and asking them what they were doing for the holiday, as if it wasn’t obvious enough. On Facebook it was much of the same. My friends were visiting the lake and enjoying a day to party. These things in and of themselves are fine. Everyone should embrace the opportunity to spend time with their loved ones away from work, school and embrace the moments of bliss which are, from time to time afforded to us. I was annoyed, but not so much as to distract me from my own activities.
But when an area high school student responded to the question of what Memorial Day meant to her, she delivered this profound reply, which moved me to the very core of my being:
“To party and get out of school.”
As a teacher and husband of a teacher, I understand her feeling better than she does. For those who have not yet released, they have a grueling year behind them and any break is welcomed. As a family of teachers, we fully intended to enjoy our summer, as well. As a former Marine Corps Sergeant, honorably discharged in 2008, and having served two tours in Iraq, however, I felt the need to make sure that the people within my reach were afforded my perspective on what the day means to me.
Memorial Day, in the United States, is meant to be a day of reflection and somber dignity, where we are freed from the burdens of work to consider the cost of such prosperity we enjoy throughout the year. I could bore you with the history, but suffice it to say that it is meant to be a day where we think about what we have and what was given to attain it, as well as to preserve it. Memorial Day is a very special day where it is asked that everyone take a moment to consider the great costs of living in our country that enjoys so many luxuries. Those costs, on this particular occasion, are measured in the lives of men and women who have fallen and died in the service of our nation.
To be clear, it isn’t really about the day off. It isn’t about time with your friends or even your family. It isn’t to remember just anyone who died, like your grandma or Uncle Milty, which many do. It isn’t even about the veterans, those who have served or are serving now. I served with Marines and took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom and I can tell you, it absolutely isn’t about us. That’s what Veteran’s Day is all about. This day is something different, unique, and special, different from any other national holiday our nation celebrates. This time, the day off is meant to serve a purpose.
Instead, Memorial Day is about a very special few American warriors. It is about those warriors who died in service of the country. Memorial Day is about thinking about them, considering the value of their persons, and the loss to society they represent. More so than this, it is a reflection of our value as individuals to what they believed in. In realizing this, an acknowledgement is made to the debt we who prosper owe to those who have given up the joys entailed in the pursuit of happiness, so that our quest continues.
Memorial Day is about acknowledging the individual Revolutionary soldier, all but forgotten, who fought to give this nation independence. It is about the soldier in the Civil War, who died liberating those who couldn’t fight for themselves and struggling to keep a desperate nation, and the ideals it stood for, together. It is to seek remembrance of the fields of white in quiet meadows of Europe and on tiny islands dotting the distant waters of the Pacific. It is a day where we remember the men who died on beaches, in forests, jungles, on mountains and deserts; in rain, snow and heat in places far, far away. Memorial Day is a day where, if even only for a moment, we consider the world we would have if no one placed themselves in Harm’s way, and we realize the necessity of terrible sacrifice. They fought tyranny and terror, faced aggression, hate and horror and chased it across the globe in the hopes that for one more generation, we might never face it here at home.
Memorial Day is for remembering the people, not as soldiers, and not as numbers or justification for agendas, but as people. Only then do we truly honor the selflessness and love they bore for others and why such virtues are necessary for a world such as ours. We thank all those who will never return to the beaches and the barbecues, the movies and Friday nights that we enjoy so much.
So, if you will please forgive my somber little post, please at some time during the day, do your solemn duty as free citizens of the United States. Take a moment to reflect in silence, say a small prayer, or give some thought to those who gave us our freedom with theirs. Ask yourselves what makes them worth a nation stopping to stand for what they did.
You may not agree that you should be asked to do this. You may not agree with or support the military at all. You may not support the government or what it stands for. You may be confused, disheartened, or angered by the wars we have been a part of and the state of our affairs, both foreign and domestic. By all means, disagree. Disagree and do nothing. Or disagree and do what you can to change these things in a peaceful and civilized manner, so that others may live well. You can do that. These are your rights. Just remember that to secure such rights there are those who gave them up. Whether or not you agree with them and what they stood for, please show them your appreciation and respect on this day. This Memorial Day weekend, please give up just a few moments of your time before you go off to the lake, the cookout, the parade or just when you’re relaxing on the couch. Think about those men and women who gave up all of their tomorrows so that you and I could enjoy the rest of our todays.
If you agree and liked what I have to say, please upvote, promote or share in whatever social network you like. I appreciate it. With that said, you have my deepest sincerity in wishing you a very Happy Memorial Day.
Thank you and Semper fi,
In memory of those I knew:
– Marine Corps, Killed in Action, Iraq 2006
– Marine Corps, Killed in Action, Iraq 2005