May 25, 2007
If you were new to America and you went by what you see and hear on TV and radio, you might be convinced that Memorial Day is the one weekend a year to save big money on cars and electronics. You almost never hear the words Memorial Day anymore unless they're followed by the word "sale".People always complain that we’ve lost the true meaning of Christmas or Easter. I think the attention we give Memorial Day is the holiday we should be most embarrassed about. Unlike Christmas or Easter, remembering our fallen soldiers doesn't require that you be Christian or Jew or Muslim. Just American. Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, pro-war, anti-war. We should all come together on this day…not the whole weekend…just Monday, and remember what the holiday means and how we’re supposed to observe it.
When America was trying to recover from the Civil War, nearly every family in this country felt the direct loss. Imagine a country one fourth the size it is now and then imagine nearly 700 THOUSAND casualties. On those first few memorial days, I’m pretty sure they didn't celebrate with hot dogs and three day weekends and a sale on video games.
In the last seven years, Memorial Day has meant something for the first time to hundreds of families. Families who've been through the scope of emotions that started with pride of service, fear of loss, and finally numbing grief that the person they love is gone forever. Ask the families and they usually won't use the word hero. Instead they'll use words like "friend", "brother", "son", "confidant", "full-of-life", "passionate", and sincere.
Just my opinion, but Monday is not the day to debate the war in Iraq. It's offensive. It's offensive to say our soldiers died in a meaningless war. It's equally offensive to defend the cause. On this day it is. We've got 364 other days for that. Memorial Day to me isn't about war or all the feelings that go along with it. It's about individuals who chose to serve in the United States Military, they chose to follow orders and they made the ultimate sacrifice.Chances are there is a veterans' cemetery within a few miles of you. You'll find many soldiers buried there who returned from the war and lived full, productive lives. But you'll no doubt find a bunch of headstones that tell the story of an abbreviated life. Each of those markers represents the crushed dream of a wife, a parent, a brother.
And I hope we will remember that on monday, in between hanging out with family and firing up the grill and hanging out with friends...I truly hope that Monday, if even for a fleeting moment, you will hit the pause button and realize that this is not just a day off from work or school. Our fallen heroes chose to put their lives on the line for many reasons, but I'm pretty certain that giving us a day-off is not one of them.
I sometimes regret that I did not have the privilege to serve my country. As much as I whine and complain about how imperfect America is (an inalienable right to do so in America, by the way), I wish that I had given a couple years of my life to demonstrate to others and myself that what we have here is more than worth defending. And for those who did--and paid the price--they will forever have my unwavering respect and admiration.