Forgetting what Memorial Day means

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I learned that it is not good form to wish each other “Happy Memorial Day!”  This is a day to remember service members who have died.  That is not “happy,” though it should make us feel grateful, and gratitude is arguably a part of happiness.

Veterans Day honors everyone who has served in the military.  Memorial Day honors those who have given their lives in that service.

In some regions, such as here in Oklahoma, the custom is to remember all of the dead.  It is sometimes called “Decoration Day” because this is when we decorate the graves of our loved ones with flowers and (for veterans) flags.

But today Memorial Day has become reduced to the kickoff of summer, a three-day weekend, a time for cookouts and good times.  An article excerpted and linked after the jump laments how Americans have tended to forget what Memorial Day means.

While acknowledging the point, I don’t know that we need to make each other feel all guilty over this.  Having a good time with family and friends is one of the benefits of the freedom that those military men and women gave their lives for.

But even as we celebrate, Memorial Day should be a day for memory, for remembering.

From Michael Rubinkam, To many Americans, Memorial Day has lost its meaning – ABC News:

Allison Jaslow heard it more than once as the long holiday weekend approached — a cheerful “Happy Memorial Day!” from oblivious well-wishers.

The former Army captain and Iraq War veteran had a ready reply, telling them, matter-of-factly, that she considered it a work weekend. Jaslow will be at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday to take part in the annual wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. She’ll then visit Section 60, the final resting place of many service members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“You can see it in people’s faces that they’re a little horrified that they forget this is what the day’s about,” said Jaslow, 34, who wears a bracelet bearing the name of a fallen comrade. “Culturally, we’ve kind of lost sight of what the day’s supposed to mean.”

While millions of Americans celebrate the long Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial start of summer — think beaches and backyard barbecues, mattress sales and sporting events — some veterans and loved ones of fallen military members wish the holiday that honors more than 1 million people who died serving their country would command more respect.

Or at least awareness.

“It’s a fun holiday for people: ‘Let’s party.’ It’s an extra day off from work,” said Carol Resh, 61, whose son, Army Capt. Mark Resh, was killed in Iraq a decade ago. “It’s not that they’re doing it out of malice. It just hasn’t affected them.”. . .

“There are a lot of things working against this particular holiday,” said Brian Duffy, commander in chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“It hurts,” Duffy said. For combat veterans and Gold Star families especially, “it hurts that, as a society, we don’t truly understand and appreciate what the true meaning of Memorial Day is.”

[Keep reading. . .]

Photo of Arlington National Cemetery, Defense Department photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/Released.  Public Domain.

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