At some point today, someone we know – friend or family – will wish us a ‘Happy Memorial Day.’ It may come via a group text on our smart phones, or perhaps from a post on social media, but the greeting will come. It’s inevitable. When someone wishes us a ‘happy’ anything – a birthday, or Halloween, or Easter – we can safely assume the comment is well-intentioned. They’re being polite; nice. On most occasions, replying with the same or similar greeting is appropriate. But not today. Today is Memorial Day. If someone greets you with “Happy Memorial Day,” please respond with, “And a solemn Memorial Day to you.”
Memorial Day, which had been known at one point as Decoration Day, can trace its origins back to the beginning of the Civil War. It’s been part of American culture for over a century-and-a-half now, and its purpose is to remember those who have died in defense of our country; our military dead. It’s a day for appreciating, honoring and mourning, not a day of celebration.
Beginning with the Civil War, we have had approximately 1.3 million American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines die while defending the United States. These men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice. They died for our country. They died to preserve the greatest country the world has ever known, and so that we who remain can enjoy the great freedoms and liberty for which they fought. Today is a day to acknowledge and show our gratitude for those sacrifices.
The true meaning of Memorial Day is not even an afterthought in many cases anymore. Many Americans seem to either suffer from ignorance or have, in fact, forgotten the very purpose of Memorial Day. We’ve even had presidents make the mistake of wishing a “Happy Memorial Day.” It’s the unofficial start to summer. It’s about matinee baseball games. It’s time for swimming, and watermelon, and barbeques. But Memorial Day is much, much more than those things.
Virtually any day is a good day to thank a veteran for their service, but not today. Wait until tomorrow for restarting those acknowledgements, and remember the official day for such thanks is in November: Veterans’ Day. Similarly, we have Armed Forces Day to recognize those who are still serving. And today is not a day to celebrate America as a whole, or our flag, or our hard workers, or anything else. We have days set aside for such purposes, but today is not that day. Today is about those who died fighting for our freedom.
For those of us who would like to see Americans redirect their focus on Memorial Day to its true meaning, there are ways for us to help. Please consider the following suggestions:
- Show your gratitude by flying the American flag today and always fly it at half-staff on Memorial Day, not just when your president or governor has ordered it for some other reason.
- Attend a Memorial Day parade or remembrance service. Most towns still have some type of ceremony, and it’s important that people attend.
- Pray for those who have died and their families. Don’t just say “they’re in my prayers,” take a moment, stop what you’re doing, and really pray. Hard. Prayer is powerful.
- Talk about Memorial Day with friends and what it truly means. Discuss it, particularly with young people. Improve the awareness.
- If you’re barbecuing and tipping a beer or two, make a toast to these great heroes. Raise your glass, and then bow your head.
- And if you know someone who was a friend or family member of one of the fallen, reach out for them. Pick up the phone and call them, and let them know you’re thinking of their fallen loved one and how appreciative you are for what they did.
There’s nothing wrong with having fun today. But that recreation can also be accompanied with a certain level of respect and solemnity. Have a barbecue, eat a hot dog, take a dip, play some horseshoes, and listen to a ballgame. That’s America, and that’s what we should do. And those who died fighting for us would want us doing those things. But also be sure to set aside some time to show true thankfulness to the sons and daughters, moms and dads, and brothers and sisters who died for our great nation. It’s the least we can do.
P.F. Whalen is a conservative blogger at TheBlueStateConservative.com. His work has appeared in multiple publications, including Human Events, the Western Journal, and American Thinker. Follow him on Parler @PFWhalen.