The barbecues are being prepared. Cars are being packed for road trips to spots of recreation and swimming pools and beaches are being prepared for the introduction of summer’s inaugural visitors to usher in the activities of the season.
Like birds flocking south for the winter, it is all a part of summertime rituals that begin at the sounding of a bell that is called Memorial Day.
In some respects it is a wholesome sort of tradition that seems to be quite pleasant, but in truth, the time has become a tragic example of lost sensibilities and respect.
Memorial Day is a national day of mourning. At least that is what it was intended to be. And in case you wondered, that is one reason why the phrase “Happy Memorial Day” is never really appropriate and has never really caught on. The day is a sad one. Yet when this holiday of sincere appreciation for our fallen defenders of freedom approaches, few people utilize it for its intended purpose.
Such disregard is shameful.
Memorial Day was originally honored on May 30th but it was changed to accommodate Americans with an extended weekend. That extra consecutive day off helped to fuel the focus on fun but it also helped dilute the purpose of the day. There were efforts by some, like Hawaii’s Senator Daniel Inouye, who proposed legislation to move the holiday from the last Monday of every May back to it’s original May 30th date.
The merit of that measure is debatable but what is not debatable is the fact that our tributes and heartfelt appreciation for the men and women who gave all in the defense of our nation and its values should not require legislative prompting.
Be it blood shed on the beaches of Normandy, limbs lost in Korea, kamikaze piloted planes crashing on the deck of a battleship in the Pacific, a roadside bomb in Baghdad, the lives lost in such events and under such circumstances, warrant your consideration and require your sincerest debt of gratitude.
The honorable men and women who sacrificed their lives in order for us to have a better life deserve more than a commemoration that is marked by your taking advantage of a summer sale or your eating a funnel cake while strolling down a favorite seaside boardwalk.
That is why this Monday, although I do not ask you to deny yourself the pleasure of a break from work or an enjoyable romp in the surf of a sunny beach, I do ask you to take some time to be thankful and grateful for those who gave their lives for ours.
Decorate the grave of a fallen soldier while reflecting on who that person was, what they did and how meaningful their actions were. Visit with a Gold Star family and offer words of warmth, solace, consolation and appreciation.
At the very least, offer a moment of personal prayer or reflection for those who have died so that you could live. Pay some kind of respect to those who gave their all so that you could have it all.
Oceans of tears have been shed by sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and husbands and wives who have all lost loved ones that fought in valiant battles meant to preserve all that we take for granted in our nation. But on Memorial Day don’t take anything for granted. Don’t take our freedom or opportunities for granted. Don’t take the efforts of those who died for America and its cause for granted.
On Memorial Day you can make sure you have enough hot dogs for the grill. Make sure you have your swim trunks packed and your Frisbee on hand. Have some fun. That’s fine.
But also have some respect.
Don’t let Memorial Day go by without giving it the meaning it deserves and don’t let its meaning get by you.