Remember what Memorial Day is All About

It’s not about having the day off from work.

I just wanted to fire off a quick post to remind people what Memorial Day is all about. It seems that while some folks are confusing Memorial Day with Veterans Day, others just look at it as a day off and a three-day weekend. Both are wrong.

From Wikipedia:

Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.

I made the important parts of that passage bold above for a reason: Memorial Day is to honor the men and women of our military who have made the ultimate sacrifice — they died while serving their country. While Veterans Day honors all past service members, alive and dead, Memorial Day honors a special subset of those people — service members who didn’t come home to their families because they died while helping preserve American freedoms and other values.

This includes the 4,459 men and women killed in Iraq since 2003 and the 2,220 men and women killed in Afghanistan since 2001.

How do you think the parents, spouses, and children these service members left behind feel today? Do you think they’re having an outdoor barbecue? Getting drunk out on a boat with their friends? Do you think they’re celebrating the day off from work?

In a way, I wish Memorial Day wasn’t a work holiday on the last Monday of May. I wish it was a numbered date holiday, like Independence Day. Then, perhaps, it would be thought of more as a day to remember our fallen soldiers, airmen, and sailors than as the key component in a three-day weekend that marks the beginning of summer.

5 thoughts on “Remember what Memorial Day is All About

  1. Good article, Maria.

    My dad fought in WWII (US Army) and he and my mom lost so many friends in that war. Memorial Day was always such a solemn day for my dad. He got so quiet and retrospective.

    War is an awful, awful thing. Just in our own lifetimes we’ve witnessed so much… Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan, and so, so many more. I wish it could stop and we could all just get along. -sigh-

  2. I find today’s wars especially tragic: thousands of young people dying overseas to help people who mostly don’t want our help. It’s one thing to protect your country. It’s another to protect someone else’s.

  3. So, so true, Maria. It’s so beyond sad…. I can’t even find a word to express how tragic this is. Breaks my heart to bits. I wish so much we could change it.

  4. Maria, I’m late to this post, but I was screaming what you were writing. Memorial Day, Fourth of July, 9/11 and Veteran’s Day have become intermingled… and hence meaningless. It doesn’t matter as long as we wave the flag, thank a soldier, and eat a hot dog.

    Deep sigh…..

    • And that’s what bothers me the most. It’s more valued as a day off from work than for what it represents. No one really cares about the meaning of the day.

      One thing I really like about NPR is their annual reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 4 every year. It’s a perfect reminder of what the founding fathers were dealing with back in 1776 and why America fought for independence. Too bad there aren’t documents we can read and refer to on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

What do you think?