National Day of Remembrance

American Flag in Sun at Florida National CemeteryPlease click picture to go to the photographer’s flickr page.

Today in America, we celebrate Memorial Day.  It’s a three-day weekend; there are picnics; it’s the unofficial start of The Summer for most of us.  We generally cook out, eat and drink. A lot.

The problem with Memorial Day, if it is a problem, is that it is not a day to celebrate, per se.  Rather, it is a day to remember those of our armed servicemen and women who have fallen in service to our country.  The original name of the day actually was Remembrance Day, and was initially dedicated to those who fell in our country’s civil war.  The problem with that was that we were once again one nation rather than two, and those who had been on the Confederate side of things didn’t really want to share a day with those who had fallen on the Union side.

Americans are squabbly.  It’s what we do.  But, after World War I, the meaning of Remembrance Day was expanded to include all war dead, not just those who had given their lives in service to one side or the other during The Civil War.

Americans also enjoy a good three-day weekend, so Congress decided to Decree that Memorial Day be observed on the last Monday in May, providing us all with a long weekend in which to do yard work or party or go on a weekend trip.  Memorial Day parades are now few and far between.  Here in Garner, we held a parade to herald the Return Triumphant of Scotty McCreery–then one of three finalists for the title of American Idol, Season 10.  But, there is no Memorial Day parade planned.

So, I think that it falls to us to do our own remembering.  We remember a grandparent who never returned from Verdun, the great uncle whose yellowed letters stopped coming after September 12, 1942. Or a father or uncle who was lost in spirit, if not in body, in Vietnam.  And today, many of us have fathers or husbands or wives or brothers or sisters who will only return from Afghanistan in a box covered with an American flag.

Today, I am grateful to and for those brave Americans who have lived, fought and died so that we may enjoy the privilege of living in a free and open society.  I am not naive enough to believe that our country or our government is perfect, but today I give thanks.  I will not participate in a Memorial Day parade or attend a service at a cemetery, but in my own way, I will remember the fallen and their families who were left behind and be quietly grateful for their courage, bravery and service.

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Comments

  1. Jane Field says

    Thanks for these words and pictures painted…we owe so much to so many.
    You are a thoughtful, caring ,precious American girl…and a blessing to many.

  2. says

    A good reminder of what Memorial Day is about! To me it’s sad that the meaning has gotten lost for many people. But never lost, of course, to those families and friends left behind. I used to dread Memorial Day. My ex (a Vietnam vet) would get really drunk and weep over his buddies that didn’t come back. There was nothing I could do to console him.

    • says

      I’m sure that was really hard, Niko. All war is bad, but when it feels like there is no support “back home” for what you’re doing, it must be awful. Vietnam vets really got a bum deal.

      Inconsolable, though, is a bad way to be. I wish folks who made it home could stop feeling guilty about that and celebrate life and the lives of their buddies rather than getting drunk. I can imagine that it was very hard for you to feel so helpless. :(

  3. says

    Here, here! Good words. America is a very unique place in this world. It’s easy to take for granted, until you meet people from other countries who have had to struggle or live in fear. Freedom is a precious thing. I’m thankful to the military people who protect it.

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