Ah, Memorial Day. The opening of summer. Time for a three-day weekend, grilling, beer, and Memorial Day sales.
Except that’s all crap. Even those who thank veterans for their service on Memorial Day don’t get it. It’s not about us.
It’s about the brothers we’ve put in the ground.
Memorial Day started as Decoration Day. Declared to be May 30 it was a day to decorate the graves of Civil War dead. It started as a local observance and steadily spread. By the end of World War I, it had become a day for honoring the fallen from all American Wars. In 1971, it was declared a national holiday.
The problem with national holidays is that they quickly get sidetracked by those who neither know nor care for what they’re about. Memorial Day is a day of solemn remembrance of and honor for the dead. Unfortunately, most Americans neither understand that nor give a damn.
While there’s a certain self-righteousness involved in all the posters and memes about “America is at the mall while we are at war,” many who have lost brothers in arms or loved ones, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in Vietnam, Korea, or the two World Wars, can’t help but see that divide when people are out having a grand old time, enjoying the sun and the day off without a thought for those who gave their lives for their country. Argue the righteousness of the wars another time; these men gave their lives in the line of duty. That alone demands honor.
So this Memorial Day, please remember what this day is for. It’s not for partying; it’s not a celebration. It’s not for thanking us, who lived. That day’s in November. No, it’s a day for honoring and remembering those who didn’t make it home.
This article was originally published in May 2014. It has been edited for republication.