When I say the words “Memorial Day” what kind of words or images do you associate with this national holiday?
- Is it the wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery?
- Is it the somber echo of a trumpet playing “taps” at a military funeral?
- Or is Memorial Day simply a day off of work, when you will hit the beach with your friends or go shopping?
We’ve talked before about this growing divide between veterans and civilians in our country. The percentage of Americans who have served in the military seems to be shrinking with every generation. There is a greater number of military kids who are following in the footsteps of their service member parents while fewer Americans know anyone who is a solider, airman, sailor or Marine.
Then you add in Memorial Day, a national holiday to honor all service members that were killed during any war and you feel this division between these 2 communities a little more.
If you watched television commercials this month, you would think that Memorial Day is a day for hosting a barbecue, taking your boat out for the first “unofficial” day of summer and that it’s the best weekend to save money on a new mattress.
The truth is that these typical Memorial Day activities are insensitive to the purpose and meaning of Memorial Day.
The truth is that these activities are insensitive to the grieving Gold Star families.
The truth is that these activities send a message to our children that if you die in service to your country, your sacrifice won’t be remembered.
But we know that simply isn’t true.
The truth is that our hearts do ache for our Gold Star families. We want to show them love and support in whatever way they need it.
The truth is that even if you haven’t had a friend, neighbor or sibling killed in action, you still want to honor and respect that person’s sacrifice to our country.
I recently saw evidence of that public support for our fallen service members when I read the news articles about the thousands of people who lined the streets of Coronado, Calif., to pay their respects to Charles Keating IV. The 31-year-old Navy SEAL died in a gunbattle with Islamic State fighters on May 3 in Iraq.
The truth is that taking time for a meaningful Memorial Day activity doesn’t take much time at all. All it takes is a bit of effort and planning.
Throughout the years, I have worked to find a Memorial Day ceremony or parade wherever we found ourselves on Memorial Day.
In Okinawa, Japan, my dedication to a meaningful Memorial Day meant attending a service that remembered the Americans who died on that island during World War II.
In Port Hueneme, Calif., my dedication to a meaningful Memorial Day meant attending an early morning ceremony and listening a Navy captain discuss the noble and courageous efforts of today’s sailors in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In Gettysburg, Penn., my dedication to a meaningful Memorial Day meant teaching my daughter to place her hand over her heart when the military color guard marched by us at the beginning of the 145th Memorial Day parade (one of the oldest continuing ceremonies in the country.)
But I must confess that last year I didn’t do any of these things. I was in deployment survival mode and was driving to my parents’ house, eager to start the summer with them. I regret to say that I forgot to remember Memorial Day.
Have you ever forgotten to mark Memorial Day in a meaningful way?
I hope I don’t ever forget it again.
Since then, I’ve learned about the National Moment of Remembrance. The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all “Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.”
Here’s what the Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada says about it
“It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”
A moment to remember.
Now that’s something that all Americans – military or civilian – can do this Memorial Day.