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.