Once upon a time, I had a series of photos at Arlington National Cemetery. That was before my old computer crashed. I wish I had them for this article.
Every year when Memorial Day rolls around, and I see ads for super sales, and excitement for a three-day weekend, and people wishing each other a "Happy Memorial Day!" and I grit my teeth and wonder how this happened. How did we forget? Or do we not actually know? And which is worse?
We can be excited for three-day weekends, but we should remember (and actually know) what Memorial Day is about. You should never ever wish anybody a "happy" Memorial Day.
As a military brat, it drives me up a wall when people say "Happy Memorial Day!" because I have pretty intimate experience with what Memorial Day actually means. I was born just outside of Dover Air Force Base, and that's where they fly in most of the bodies from overseas. Shadows from those big planes hang over my infancy.
I guess people just confuse it with Veteran's Day, or something like that. I still think everybody should at least care enough to learn the difference. Veteran's Day is when you honor our military, or, at the very least, the sacrifice and service of the men and women who are in our military. Memorial Day is when you remember all of the men and women who died serving our country and who died serving you.
Memorial day is flag-covered coffins, hot tears, short breath, mamas who have to tell their babies that their daddy was a hero, old dog tags clutched like life, a 21 gun salute, and the endless lines of graves in Arlington National Cemetery.
I think most of the "Happy Memorial Day" offenders are people about my age, give or take a few a years, and that really makes me sad. There so many trends in thought and politics and society that influence us and (in part) make this the case, but I don't care who you are, what you think of our military, or what you think of war. Out of respect for all the other people in this country, and out of respect for those who died serving it, you should at least know what Memorial Day means. No matter who you are, the weight of that sacrifice is significant.
It almost makes me cry just to remember being in Arlington,. It's vast like an ocean, and you could drown in sorrow and honor. The lines of graves mark sons and daughters and mamas and daddies and brothers and sisters and bodies so mangled by sacrifice that they're unnamed. Sometimes there are wreaths and flowers and letters. Memorial day is about those.
So, have your barbecue (because I'm sure they would all rather you enjoy life than be in tears), but do it in light of what Memorial Day actually means.