Grills are firing up, traffic is piling up, and the cost of a mattress is dropping. It must mean that Memorial Day is nearly upon us. As you hang a flag or pack a bag I ask that you also remember what the day is intended to celebrate and… don’t thank me for my service.
If you’ve read this blog much you may know that I’m a Navy veteran and the mother of a currently serving Marine. Causes that support veterans and service members are near and dear to my heart. You could say that one of the common threads in all of my storytelling is pulled from this experience. I feel it is my duty to raise a voice for my sisters and brothers at arms past, present, and future.
Memorial Day is one of the most misunderstood of the days set aside to honor those who serve. For example, did you know that it was first celebrated in 1868 as Decoration Day? No, it wasn’t the day Lilly Pulitzer’s ancestors created the first pineapple decorated sandal. It was a day set aside to remember those lost in the civil war.
In 1971, amid war and loss, the day now known as Memorial Day became an official federal holiday intended to be a remembrance of those who had given all in service to this nation. Not all those that served but rather the countless many who had lost their lives for the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of these United States.
Somewhere in the decades between we have let the solemnity of the day be pushed aside in favor of three-day weekends and the unofficial start of summer. Few of us find our way to places of mourning to pay respect to those whose blood has paved the path of our freedom. Still others of us, well-intentioned though we may be, misunderstand the sentiment of honoring loss and turn to thank the living for their service.
While I appreciate your gratitude, a part of me rails against it on this day. I have lost those I knew, their loss is fresh again when you share thanks for my service on Memorial Day. I served. I did not die. This day is not for me, nor my son, nor my extended family of veterans and the currently serving Marines I consider family. It is for the families of the fallen, for the widow who sees flags fly on Memorial Day, each one of them an echo of a flag-draped coffin. It is for the tears shed by loved ones across the decades that built this nation. It is a day of collective mourning and gratitude.
Don’t misunderstand me, I am not here to tell you that you’re wrong in hosting that BBQ or heading to the beach. I just ask that you take a moment away from your celebrations to send one up in remembrance of those who gave all that you may truly enjoy this time together.
If you’d like to thank a veteran, do that on Veteran’s Day. If you want to thank a currently serving member of any branch of our military (though we all know the Navy is the best,) Armed Forces Day is the day to do that. Should you be so inclined as to want to do more than just say thank you, support programs that help support our military and their families. Here are a few of my favorites;
Want to visit a veteran’s cemetery to say thank you? Here is a way to locate one near you.