What does Memorial Day mean to you? Wherever you are on the political spectrum, it is an important question to ask yourself. I am lucky enough to live in a country that allows us the freedoms and safety to gather on this holiday and share it with family, friends and food. I have to admit, between the cooking and entertaining, I did not think enough about what this holiday truly means. My penance for this lapse of acknowledgment includes this blog post.
First, let’s review what Memorial Day is. According to Wikipedia, Memorial Day is:
Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. soldiers who died while in the military service. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War – it is celebrated near the day of reunification after the Civil War – it was extended after World War I to honor Americans who have died in all wars.
Second, let’s examine the reality that wherever you stand on the issues, we still fight wars. Americans die all to often in the wars and battles that our leaders choose. Our fallen soldiers paid the ultimate price for our ability to eat burgers & hot dogs and speak our minds. Let’s not forget what cost they and their families have paid.
Allow me to draw your attention to the blog of Rajiv Srinivasan, who is a US Army officer currently serving in Afghanistan. His blog captures the human side of Memorial Day that we should all reflect on. His post on May 31, 2010 shares a memorial service that he attended in Afghanistan for a fallen soldier that he served with:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand for the invocation,” the Chaplain begins, “Father, we are gathered here today to celebrate the life of one of your finest servants: Staff Sergeant (First) (MI) (Last)…” My mind drifts off into the clear blue sky. Under the cover of dark shade eye protection, my eyes look for answers; for solace. I still hear the radio traffic in my head…it replays in my conscience like a broken record, “Contact! Contact! IED!…The lower half of his body! It’s blown off!” It never stops. It just won’t stop. My quaking cheek muscles wring a tear from my eyes.
He concludes his post with,
The hardest part about writing this entry was not recalling the sights and emotions of a friend’s passing. It was deciding what name to use; what to call him. I contemplated using a fake name, maybe even his real name. But perhaps this piece will mean more to my reader if you re-read the roll-call inserting the (First) (Middle) and (Last) name of a loved one you know serving overseas. Whatever genuine surges of emotion you experience, I ask you to offer your empathy to the soldiers, wives, children, and parents who pay the bill for our freedom each day. Memorial Day comes but once a year, but for the sake of those who will go anywhere and do anything for our livelihood, I pray that sentiment stays with us forever.
Let’s all take a moment and do what Rajiv asks us to do… “offer [our] empathy to the soldiers, wives, children, and parents who pay the bill for our freedom each day.”
Rajiv says it far better than I could have. Thank you Rajiv for reminding all of us what the true meaning of Memorial Day is.