So, Star, co-founder of Army Wife Network, asked me to write a blog for Memorial Day. Being the eager beaver (what else rhymes with eager?) I am, I jumped on it. Then, ten minutes later it hit me; I had no idea what I was going to write about. What is Memorial Day, anyway? I talked to my husband, and he wasn’t even 100% sure. I went to Google and typed in “what is me…” and the first suggestion was “What is Memorial Day.” Really. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who were wondering. After doing some reading, I think the New York Times said it best: “Memorial Day is a holiday that has evolved dramatically over the years. Memorial Day observances began after the Civil War to honor the Union soldiers who gave their lives in the conflict. They were expanded after World War I to become a tribute to the dead of all the nation’s wars. … More recently, the last Monday in May, and the weekend preceding it, has come to mark the unofficial beginning of summer for many.”
Why has Memorial Day gone from a day to commemorate fallen service members to the day after the pool opens for the summer? Is it because we don’t have any set traditions? We light fireworks and barbecue for the 4th of July. We exchange presents and trim trees for Christmas. We expect heart-shaped boxes of chocolate from our husbands on Valentine’s Day. How has Memorial Day fallen by the wayside?
Trying to figure out what to write about a holiday that many people don’t really “observe,” even though they are given the day off, was tough for me. So, I decided to pick the brains of my friends to try to figure out why Memorial Day doesn’t get the recognition is deserves.
Here’s how the conversation with my best friend, Shawna, went:
Me: It is a sad holiday when you think about it.
Shawna: Yeah, it really is. We used to go to Arlington for Memorial Day when we were in Maryland. I never made it through that day without bawling my eyes out. Thats why no one likes it; it’s not fun.
Me: Huh. You’re right. But why does something have to be fun for us to pay attention?
Shawna: Human nature? My mawmaw was such a big part of my life. I miss her so much, but I don’t think about her because it hurts. I can’t even remember the good times because it hurts too much to remember she’s gone. But you don’t care that my grandma died. So, if you have no personal ties to Memorial Day, why do you care?
Of all the conversations I’ve had about Memorial Day in the last 24 hours, this one with Shawna really struck a chord with me. And she’s right; you don’t care about her mawmaw, because you didn’t know her. We don’t care about the things that don’t somehow personally touch us. We might not recognize it, but we ALL have personal ties to Memorial Day. For some reason, we don’t acknowledge it. With less than 1% of our country serving in the armed forces, having personal ties to the military isn’t something everyone experiences. I know I didn’t know a single person in the military until I met my husband at age 19. But you know what we experience every day in the United States? Freedom. Freedom lives because they died. Think about that on your Memorial Day off while you sit by the pool.
Let’s start a tradition. Let’s get a dialogue going about the sacrifices the 1% make for the 99%. Wear your red poppies, wave your American flag, and START TALKING. Exercise that freedom of speech your fellow Americans died to preserve.
Here’s to the spirit of our great nation and to all fallen service members! Happy Memorial Day.
Photo by Randy Bish of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.