Happy Memorial Day! I know that probably most of you are already either planning your barbeque or packing for a trip to the beach on this extra long weekend, the unofficial beginning of Summer. But out of this 3-day weekend, is five minutes really too much to ask?
Last night I had a conversation with my oldest daughter about how her weekend has been going so far, and she said “okay” (typical teen with a one-word answer). So as I am prone to do, to pull more syllables out of her, I asked her a question that contrary to popular suggestions, one that would require a “yes” or “no” answer. Either way a discussion would ensue.
Dad: Do you know why you have off on Monday?
Daughter: Yes. It’s Memorial Day.
Dad: Do you know what that means?
Now, I want to state up front, I was not able to serve in any branch of the service, so I cannot talk of personal experiences. And as I have several friends and relatives who have served, I will do my best to be respectful to explain, as it once had been taught to me, by my elders, to appreciate and honor our servicemen and servicewomen who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom and our country.
I started the conversation by explaining to my daughter that we actually have 3 days that we recognize those serving our country (again, I apologize for my ignorance if there are more – this is only what I have been taught). There is Armed Forces Day which we honor all who serve in the armed forces. This day is celebrated on the 3rd Saturday of May. Next, there is Veterans Day. This day is celebrated on November 11th to honor those who have served in the military. And finally, as we remember today, Memorial Day. Today, we remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in protecting our country, protecting our freedom.
As a child, I can recall conversations with family members with a limited range of military events… World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. I had friends with grandfathers who served in WWII. My paternal grandfather earned a Purple Heart in the Korean War. I had an immediate uncle who had served in the Vietnam War. All I had heard was stories. But it was enough for me to hope that as we learn history to keep from repeating it, we would learn the tragic losses of war, and war would be avoided. Of course it did not.
There would be US military service needed in Europe once again in the 1980’s, and of course, in 1990, I watched the television, the first war in the Persian Gulf region, “Operation Desert Shield.” Though it only lasted less than two years, and to some it was judged a success, others incomplete, the day that changed America, September 11, 2001, would leave our country and our armed service personnel, in a perpetual obligation ever since. Through 3 presidents now, and with no end in sight, our military is involved in so many conflicts in the middle East region alone.
Following the 9/11 attack on New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, my nephew then served multiple duties in middle East. Now, as adults, my friends also had children serving in these conflicts. Wars have taken on a new meaning for us. Because even if our service men and women come home, most never come home as they left, physically or emotionally.
To all my friends and family who have served or are serving, as always I am grateful for your service. And today, I remember not only my family and friends who served and lost their lives in battle, but also the friends and family, and fellow “brothers and sisters” who fought beside you and lost their lives.
Yes, this weekend is a beautiful weekend. The weather at the shore will be great. There will be lots of hot dogs, hamburgers, and ribs. Oh, and let us not forget, the countdown to the end of school, less than two weeks away for most. Yes, there is a lot to celebrate with our families. But as we are going to be involved in military conflict for many years to come, we need to remember and recognize this day, because sadly, more names will be added to the list who died serving our country. This is why we have to remember our history. This is why we have to always take time to remember our fallen. So that we can have the enjoyable weekend that we will.