I know the title of this post sounds like a command, or just a statement instead of the normal “well-wishing” that we usually do for calendar “holidays.” It even sounds strange to call Memorial Day a holiday. Because, when you really think about why we commemorate this day, it’s not like other holidays.
I feel like in this era of social media, constant access to information, and living in a society of non-stop online consumption, it’s easy to gloss over days like today. I sometimes envy my grandparent’s generation because of how much simpler, but richer life used to be. Memorial Day has become commercialized, a three day weekend for barbecues and burgers, going to the lake, wearing red, white, and blue, shopping sales at the mall, and even buying cars! But that’s not what it’s for and when it’s cheapened to sales and burgers, it’s like selling t-shirts at a funeral. Memorial Day is not the same as Veteran’s Day, nor is it a day to memorialize anything and everything. It’s a day set aside to remember the men and women who didn’t come home from Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, Vietnam, Iwo Jima, and countless other wars and battles. These men and women served our country with everything they had, giving their lives so we can live freely.
I don’t come from a military family and I don’t know anyone personally that lost their life serving their country. I grew up in a conservative home that stressed patriotism, respect for our military, and an appreciation for history, so I thought I understood what Memorial Day was about. But after marrying my husband, I saw Memorial Day in a very different way.
My husband served as a Corporal in the United States Marine Corps before I met him. He served two tours, one to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. My husband has a warrior’s heart. He loved serving his country, being part of a brotherhood, and all that life as a Marine entailed. He misses it. While my husband and I were dating, we would go to weddings together and I got to meet some of his fellow Marines. They are an interesting group to watch. They can be loud, boisterous, rowdy, but also quiet, pensive, reserved, and extremely respectful to others, but especially to each other. They remember the brothers they lost. They don’t forget, they’re faithful beyond the end. This ethos was further exemplified when my husband and I went to the National Museum of the Marine Corps on our honeymoon. Walking through the history of our nation’s wars and battles with a Marine you know personally, moves you. And that was only one museum for one branch of the military. Seeing that kind reverence and respect is powerful. It changed my view of our fallen servicemen and days like today. It makes days like today personal. Like I mentioned before, I don’t know anyone personally that died serving their country, but I know my husband, and his loss is personal and deserving of respect.
We need to respect the fallen. We need to remember their sacrifice. We need to support and stand by their families and fellow servicemen. We need to take a moment to notice the veterans and military families around us and respect their day to remember. Don’t feel guilty for enjoying a three day weekend or getting to spend time with friends and family, but don’t make the day just about the surface, commercial, shallow stuff. Honor and remember the fallen.