For those of you in uniform, there’s an easy test to determine if “Memorial Day” is for you: are you currently reading this article? If you answered “yes,” then you and your family may wish to hold the (much deserved) self-congratulations until Veterans Day.
The United States of America. Land of the free, home of the brave. The greatest country in the world. A nation built and maintained by heroes. Our Armed Forces are comprised of the most selfless men and women in the world.
How heroic is someone willing to leave their family, risk their life and dedicate every part of their being to defend our nation?! I certainly couldn’t do it. I can’t defend myself against a spider, let alone a terrorist. It’s outside my comprehension to grasp the idea that we have so many people who willingly place themselves in harm’s way and do violence on our behalves so that we can sleep peacefully at night. I’m allowed that luxury because of them. Our men and women in uniform exemplify bravery. There is no doubt about that.
But there are people who don’t get it.
We see it every year. Someone makes a heartfelt post on Memorial Day about their own service or the service of someone in their family. We understand — you’re proud; we are too! We all beam with pride. And who in our shoes wouldn’t? We should all be thankful every single day, especially Veterans Day, for the sacrifices and hard work of Service members near and far.
Wait. Re-read that last sentence. Veterans Day. In November.
That is the day set aside to recognize those who have served or are serving in the military.
Memorial Day, however, is very different. Memorial Day is the day to remember and pay tribute to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice: their lives. While you’re rightfully proud of your service member for his or her service, remember that there are those who have buried a husband or wife. There are children growing up without a father or mother. There are heroes who won’t get to see their baby take her first steps or their son walk across the stage at high school graduation. They’ll never experience growing old and they will never meet their grandchildren. They will never get another breath of air or kiss their loved ones goodnight again.
They are dead.
They exist only in our fondest, most cherished memories. Thus the name of the holiday (if you can call it a “holiday”) — Memorial Day.
Memorial Day is about them and their families. That’s it.
Social media has become a platform for thoughtless ranting, mass celebration and the overall ability to broadcast information without a vetting process. It’s easy to turn holidays into what they’re not. While we may not agree about the significance of Christmas or the history of Hanukkah, it is essential that we pay our respects to the fallen by not losing focus on what Memorial Day is about.
I urge you to use this opportunity to memorialize the lives of those who took their last breaths in our defense.
All gave some. But on Memorial Day we recognize those who gave all.
Traci Moran is an Army spouse of five years who loves to address the elephant in the room. She says she has a passion for making the uncomfortable truth lighthearted and spelled out in a silly, honest way.
Photo courtesy U.S. Army.