This is the license plate on the front of our Expedition. I originally put it there in honor of POW/MIAs, but when the guy at the car wash pointed it out to his co-worker and they both gave it a respectful thumbs-up, just as we’re heading into Memorial Day Weekend, I got to thinking about how it sums up the military point of view of most military special days. And it’s especially pertinent to this weekend.
I’ve been seeing plenty of Facebook posts explaining the differences between some special dates, and here it is in a nutshell: Armed Forces Day is for those now in uniform, Veterans Day is for those formerly in uniform, and Memorial Day is for those who never made it out of their uniform. To most of us veterans, the first two have blurred lines and both usually end up including everybody anyway. Some might think there’s a case to be made that maybe we have more special days than we need. Most of us didn’t join for accolades anyway, so we don’t make a big fuss about it, but it is nice to be recognized, so we don’t complain, either.
But Memorial Day is different. It’s to honor the men and women who gave their lives in the service of their country. A lot of service members and veterans do get a little riled up about it, and that’s okay…it’s a very serious thing and they take it very seriously. So you’ll see posts saying things like, “Don’t thank me for my service on Memorial Day. It’s not about me!” True, it’s not about them, or me, or any of us who are still around. But there will still be people thanking us for our service, and most of us will still thank them for their support, because their hearts are in the right place and they’re sincere about it, and we should be respectful back for the respect we’re given. Just makes sense.
There will also be people saying, “Don’t say ‘Happy Memorial Day’! There’s nothing happy about people being killed in the service of their country. This is a solemn occasion, a time for mourning, a time for respect.” You also hear that this weekend isn’t about the cookouts and the beach and the parties. But, well, maybe it is, in a way. Maybe it’s a fitting tribute for our fallen heroes, to celebrate our wonderful country…a country so wonderful that there have been men and women willing to give their lives for it, and for us, to keep us free. Maybe in addition to us respecting and honoring them, we should be happy they lived and served and gave us all a legacy of honor and love to aspire to.
So of course, by all means, barbecue and swim and play volleyball and enjoy the weekend with friends and family. Maybe that’s not what the holiday was created for, but it’s been a rough year and it’s a good time to start breathing a little easier and celebrate the healing we’re starting to experience, the warmer weather coming, and this land we love.
While you’re enjoying your weekend, fly your flag if you can, at half-staff until noon on Monday, if you have that capability. Lift a glass in a toast, say a little prayer, salute that flag, talk about the loved ones you miss, or take any way you wish to remember and honor the ones Memorial Day really belongs to. Remember that everything you have is because of those who gave up everything they had.
Some gave all.