Thoughts about Memorial Day

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!



Have a happy, and thoughtful, Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a particularly special day for those who have served; it is an opportunity to remember those who have given so much to protect our shared way of life.  America is truly the greatest nation on Earth, and it remains so only because of the selfless sacrifice of those willing to give their lives in its defense.

So have a great Memorial Day, but take a moment to reflect and remember why we all have this Monday off from work and school.  To have sworn an oath to protect and defend the United states and to wear the cloth of the nation is to personally and viscerally feel the loss of those who will never return.  It is for them that this day is honored.

Below is one of my favorite poems.  It honors fallen soldiers from the First World War, but its message transcends the near-century since it was penned by a Canadian Officer, Lieutenant Colonel John McRae in 1915.   McRae himself fell some three years later, scant months before the war’s end:

In Flanders Field


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields. 

John McCrae