Several years ago, I was visiting a church with one of my brothers. He had only been a civilian for a couple of months. Since it was around Memorial Day, the church was singing patriotic songs and had red, white, and blue decorations around the Sanctuary and covering their programs.
In the middle of the service, they called on the people in the congregation to stand up if they were currently serving or had ever spent time serving in the military. They called out the different branches and the rest of the people in the room clapped in appreciation.
My brother had a very solemn look on his face as he sat there, glued to his chair. I assumed it was because we weren’t regular attenders of this church, so I started nudging him to stand up anyway. Being a proud sister (each of my three brothers have served in the Army), I wanted him to receive some recognition for his service to his country too. He swiftly shook his head in a way I knew to drop it and we continued to clap for those standing before the service moved on.
Later on, I asked him about it. I was expecting my somewhat reserved brother to tell me something like, “you know I don’t like attention,” but that’s when he taught me a couple of lessons instead.
1. MEMORIAL DAY is in MEMORY of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice -their lives- for their country. VETERANS DAY is in HONOR of those who serve or have served in any military branch.
I know some people will be thinking, “But shouldn’t we give thanks to those serving in the military every day?” Yes. Their 9-to-5 is actually a 24/7. They sacrifice time, sleep, family, and so much more.
My brother knows this firsthand. He has a Purple Heart as a result of doing his job. I’m incredibly proud that he was able to complete missions that made people’s lives safe and exceptionally thankful that he was able to (mostly) heal from injuries sustained while overseas. So I would definitely say I believe he and the men and women of our armed forces deserve thanks. I see even more reason to since my husband took the oath of enlistment in 2010 that moved us away from family and friends, not because I desire thanks by any means, but because I now see the struggles firsthand.
But something I learned from my brother, my husband, and from others who serve is that they are thankful to have a day dedicated to their fallen brothers and sisters. When you join the military, you join a family. Those who died in the past laid the foundation for those serving today. And unfortunately too many of their brothers and sisters give their lives today. Memorial Day is a day reserved to honor and remember them. It is a day to ensure that they are never forgotten.
2. MEMORIAL DAY isn’t Happy.
Saying Happy Memorial Day is along the lines of saying “Happy Death of your Family Member” to someone in the military. Extreme concept, but true. Yes, we are happy to live in a country with our many freedoms thanks to those who gave their lives to fight for it.
Yes, we are happy to have a day to honor our fallen. But Memorial Day is about so much more than a 3-day weekend and a cook-out. It’s okay to enjoy the day and be jovial, but there’s something to be said about having time to reflect on what the day actually represents.
Take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of a parent, child, sibling, etc. grieving their loved one. Same thing could be said of the brother or sister-in-arms grieving their battle buddy and “coworker.” Treating a day in their honor as an extra “Saturday” minimizes their sacrifice.
My husband let me know that he didn’t fully understand and appreciate what Memorial Day is all about until he lost a Navy friend with whom he regularly trained. I’m thankful that not everyone will have to experience that kind of loss, but if we did then I bet we would all look at Memorial Day differently and respect it more. Many Americans don’t even realize that, according to the 2000 National Moment of Remembrance Resolution, there is supposed to be a moment of silence at 3pm local time “to voluntarily and informally observe a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing.”