Memorial Day is not National Barbecue Day. Shocking, I know. Memorial Day was first proclaimed a holiday in 1868 as a day to place flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers in Arlington Cemetery. By 1890, all the northern states recognized the holiday. After World War I, all the states began recognizing the day as a time to honor all fallen soldiers from any conflict.
So, in essence, Memorial Day is a time to honor the men and women throughout the history of our nation who have sacrificed their lives to give us the freedom and blessings we too often take for granted. The very reason we can barbecue in peace, unconcerned about being shot at, well unless you are at a redneck family reunion. Then firearms are almost always involved.
Many of my family members have served in the military. I have a number of high school friends who served and retired from different branches. One of my classmates was killed in action.
My husband’s grandfather was in the Navy, stationed in the South Pacific during World War II. He served on a ship that missed pulling into Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, because of an engine repair. When they did arrive a few days later, they sailed past still-burning hulks of ships. He proudly listed the ships on which he served, one of which was sunk, but he never discussed anything he endured. It was simply too painful to remember the friends he lost, and the horrors he witnessed.
I just learned last summer that my great-uncle was killed in action in World War II during the Siegfried Line Campaign, the battle leading up to the Battle of the Bulge. I was shocked that I had never known about this. My dad mentioned in passing that he wished he had visited his uncle’s grave when he served in the Army in Germany. What?!? Who?!? How did I miss that? My aunt said she wasn’t surprised I didn’t know. This uncle was my grandmother’s baby brother. His death devastated the family, and by the time I came along 20 years later, silence was their coping measure.
Somewhere along the way, the holiday’s meaning of honor has lost its luster. It’s shameful, really. We should not forget their sacrifice.
- Our soldiers should be our heros, not air-headed entertainers.
- Our soldiers should receive better retirement benefits than our power-hungry politicians.
- Our soldiers should be paid better than sports figures who can hardly stay out of jail or rehab or off the front page of the news for their unsavory lifestyles.
- Our soldiers should get more respect than people who barely work a day in their lives.
- Our soldiers should be lauded and memorialized more than the latest mass murderer or terrorist.
While we are eating ribs, hamburgers, or hot dogs:
- Many a soldier is eating a dehydrated meal in full gear, ready to be called into action at a moment’s notice,
- Many a wounded soldier is struggling to rebuild his/her life,
- Many a parent or spouse or child is crying over a grave.
I’ll end this Memorial Day tribute to all Americans who have served our country faithfully in the U.S. military with this poem:
“We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.”