It’s Memorial Day weekend! Whoo hoo! Barbecues, an extra day off on the weekend, furniture sales. . .wait, what is Memorial Day? A lot of people are apparently confused about this federal holiday which was previously known as Decoration Day. It is a day of mourning and honoring the military personnel who have died in the performance of their military duties. Now everyone who has ever cheerily greeted a military person with, “Happy Memorial Day” probably feels bad. It’s not a day of celebration so cut that out!
When my father was met with the “Happy Memorial Day” greeting, it was really jarring. He was remembering all his friends that died in the Vietnam Conflict. Being a sweet soul, though he never said anything and only nodded and walked away. However, he sat his two daughters down one day and explained the difference of all the military holidays. It made an impact on me and I have passed it on to my own children.
When the timing is right and someone wants to learn, I simply tell them to look up the holiday and read about it. I try very hard not to make it awkward or rude. I was very lucky that out of all of my older family members (65 years served total) none of them died in battle. To have survived WWII, The Korean War, The Attack on Pearl Harbor, The Vietnam Conflict and all the Pacific Rim situations was lucky indeed.
In fairness, Memorial Weekend is ALSO the unofficial welcoming of summer so if you are having a cookout for that – call it that. Call it a family get together but stop calling it a Memorial Day celebration because well, it’s just weird. No one celebrates the death of anyone like that. Grill your dogs and burgers but please start calling it a Summer Cookout or something.
If you want to note this very important holiday take a trip to any cemetery and put flowers or flags on graves that are noted with military markings. THAT is respectful, kind and appreciated by the family members who lost them. If the local VFW or DAR has a ceremony – try to attend. IF you have friends who have served or are serving send a card saying, “On a day of mourning I wanted to reach out and say thanks for your sacrifice as you serve our country. I will remember today everyone who lost their lives fighting for our freedom”. Let those military men and women know you GET their pain.
And for crying out loud stop firing off those damn fireworks – they sound like gunfire and bombs and they trigger PTSD among all the surviving military men and women. Most dogs and cats hate them too. If you had to train and fight during live gunfire you would not think those fireworks were FUN. Let the professionals do it on 4th of July or at Disney World and stop doing it in your yard. I’m not a veteran but I lived in a country that was war torn and I can barely tolerate the fireworks. Low flying helicopters and jets still make my heart race and I nearly pee my pants every time. It stays with you for a very long time.
Okay, I got preachy and it was not my intention to be that way. The best way you can be your best self is to always educate yourself. Enjoy your life, enjoy that steak (or grilled Portabella) just know why you are doing it. Have a wonderful long weekend with your family and friends and Happy Summer!