Chances are you’re reading this by the pool or from the comfort of your couch as you enjoy a long weekend. Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer for a lot of beach and resort areas as school ends in many parts of the country. Car dealerships advertise their giant Memorial Day sales with TV spots full of flags, and department stores promise the hottest deals of the summer while patriotic music plays in the background.
But what about the true meaning of Memorial Day? It’s sad that so many people don’t know the history of it, let alone what it is about. They also tend to lump it in with Veteran’s Day and July 4th as perhaps an extra day off from work, or a day that you fly that American flag that’s been improperly folded in the closet since your last cookout by the pool.
This isn’t a liberal problem or a conservative problem, this is an American problem. All too often, we take things for granted and forget the sacrifices made by men and women in uniform since the founding of our nation. Regardless of whether you supported a war or not, they still paid the ultimate price because they believed in what they were doing – or had no other choice because they were drafted.
Unlike Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day is specifically to honor the dead, not the living, or those who survived to make it home.
This weekend, millions of Americans will hit the highways to go visit family members and enjoy a 3 day weekend. Or in the case of some of my co-workers, a 5 day weekend. Many will drive to the malls and box stores for the hyped sales of cheap goods made in China, past the cemeteries of forgotten soldiers who died on the other side of the world not so many years ago.
I’m not saying to spend your entire Memorial Day weekend at Arlington National Cemetery, but at least take the time to remember why this holiday exists in the first place. It wasn’t designed to fatten the wallets of retailers or the gas stations who raised their prices before the first of us hit the roads on Thursday. It is to remember those who fought and paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we wouldn’t have to.
Please leave some flowers on the grave of a soldier, or at least stop for a moment of silence at 1500 hours in your time zone to remember the fallen. It’s the least we can do to repay those who did so much.
And they who for their country die shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldier’s tomb, and beauty weeps the brave.— Joseph Rodman Drake, To the Defenders of New Orleans
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