Memorial Day marks many things: the unofficial start of summer, the exciting end of the school year, and for those who have been touched by war an opportunity to remember those who are no longer with us.
Across the nation, before the burgers and hotdogs hit the grill, tens of thousands of volunteers place tiny American flags and floral arrangements among the headstones and grave markers those who have gone before and in defense of all of us. There are parades, speeches, and picnics in every town and city across the nation. Veterans, both young and old, don their old uniforms and walk down boulevards with their medals glittering in the sun as the citizens for whom they fought look on.
Newspapers print pictures and stories of the fallen from wars present and past. Television networks hold war movie marathons and radio hosts interview veterans and politicians and families of servicemen who are currently overseas.
Flags fly on every street. People cheerfully greet the beginning of summer by celebrating in that uniquely American way of barbequeing and soaking up the sun in back yards and parks from Honolulu to the Hudson and everywhere in between.
It is a good day.
And it should be.
Memorial Day is the day when we all remember those who have bourne the cost of freedom, but it is more than that. For me, and for so many others that have gone “over there” and come back again, the day is a celebration of the very purpose of military service. Every holiday cookout and parade and picnic is made possible by the thousands of men and women who stand atop the metaphorical wall and keep the American way of life safe and free from tyranny.
I am often asked if Memorial Day should be more solemnly commemorated, and my answer is no. It shouldn’t because the traditions of a free nation and the joyful celebration that begins the summer and ends the school year is the very reason that we chose to serve in the first place.
Memorial Day commemorates those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect America. It also a celebrates of what America is: families and friends together without fear of oppression or danger. That is what we have all been fighting for since the colonies gained their independence from the British and became the United States of America, and we would have it no other way.
Happy Memorial Day!