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What Memorial Day means to me

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To a lot of people Memorial Day signifies the unofficial beginning of summer and a time to party. But to me Memorial Day is a day which holds a lot of significance and is a somber day; I think about those who served, I read and watch the videos which show the stories of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. I watch the families and fellow soldiers grieve over those they’ve lost. I don’t ever want to forget their sacrifice and that the freedoms we enjoy, and too often take for granted, come with a price. A heavy price. So I’m always uncomfortable when people wish me a happy Memorial Day because I’m never sure how to reply.

It seems some people don’t understand the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is to remember and honor those who have served and died. Veterans Day is to honor those who have served or currently serve and are alive. In the words of Valerie Strauss in a column published in the Washington Post: “Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served — not only those who died — have sacrificed and done their duty.” So thanking a veteran for their service on Memorial Day, while well-intentioned, is not really appropriate. Please thank us on Veterans Day.


YouTube video courtesy of El Mambo King

When I was in the Army I had the privilege of serving on the Honor Guard that participated at the funerals of veterans. It was deeply moving to me even back then, but as I’ve reflected back on it over the years I now appreciate even more that I had that opportunity to represent the Army and pay my respects to these courageous men and women. Even now I can barely keep from crying whenever I hear a bugle playing Taps.

The one thing which really troubles me is when people choose this day to air their political agenda and to criticize the government / military / soldiers or the conflicts this country has been involved in. Yes, people have the right to speak their opinion, but I find it incredibly disrespectful to do so on the day which honors those who have served and given their lives to protect the freedoms that allow them to be able to voice their opinions. In my opinion that shows a total lack of class and respect. I am patriotic and fully support those who choose to serve and I make no apologies for it. Do I agree with the all that our government does and their policies? Absolutely not. But whether we support the government and its policies is irrelevant on this day; the point is to remember those who perished fighting to protect this country. We are honoring the soldiers, not the government.

I am a veteran, my son is a veteran, as was my grandfather, and Memorial Day is a sacred day for me. Veterans Day is the day I celebrate my service and thank those who have also served; today I mourn the loss of those who died in service to their country, and their families.

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