A Non-Veteran’s Thoughts on Memorial Day
Let’s be honest. Most Americans view Memorial Day as one of the few nationally-recognized “holidays” each year. Holiday is synonymous with a day off of work. So, we celebrate. But what are we celebrating? The answer hits a set of internal cymbals we non-veterans simply do not feel.
Somewhere along the way, Memorial Day’s true meaning became either lost upon mainstream America or distorted into something it was never intended to represent. Yes, we are proud of those who fight for our freedom. They are the braves souls whose courage – almost always unseen – allows us to celebrate, commend, and recognize them. No other class of people are more deserving of such admiration and thanks.
Yet, even those who’ve survived battle don’t see Memorial Day as representative of anything to celebrate. Those most affected by this annual “holiday” recall the ones that died beside or even away from them. Veterans have a common bond based on their heroic experiences. However, many of them also carry the burden of either seeing or knowing that the man or woman with whom they shared the proverbial “trenches” has died fighting the same battle.
All of that is to say this: On this day, simply love our veterans. They grieve while we celebrate. They will conjure memories from those who have died. For them, it’s not supposed to be a happy day. It’s no day off of work for them. Instead, it haunts them and should be solemn recognition to the rest of us that every life matters.
Today is a day that, having worked and befriended so many veterans, leaves me in two states of mind simultaneously: (1) Sadness, and (2) Gratitude. It’s hard to have gratitude without experiencing what these brave men and women died for. But it sure is easy to be sad.
Though the overall tone of this post may be quite melancholy, the message is something for which I will not apologize: Be both wounded by the loss but also grateful for the sacrifice of those who gave their lives. Without them, who knows where we would all be. Think about that. Actually, think about them – those who have supremely sacrificed everything on our behalf. They should get some credit, huh? Nope. They deserve more credit than those of who’ve never served our country will ever know.
So, I implore you to treat this day for what it is. Recognizing what today symbolizes may not mean much to you, but I can tell you that my heart will personally break into a few pieces. And that’s okay because I will heal. Those for whom my heart will turn to shambles would love to have such a restoration. We love our veterans. We love those who serve others and are there for them. Otherwise, what else are we doing with our lives that matters to anyone other than ourselves?