According to Wikipedia, Memorial Day is the US federal holiday on which we remember those who died when they were a soldier, marine, sailor, airman and/or a coast guard. It is not to be confused with Veteran’s Day which honors all those who served in the US military. For example my dad, who served in the Navy, died many years later from a heart attack and could be celebrated on Veteran’s Day but not on Memorial Day.
From the little research I did on Memorial Day I learned that many years ago, the custom was to decorate the graves of those fallen soldiers on the last Monday in the month of May. Before the American Civil war, they started the tradition of gathering together on the Sunday prior to decorating day to have picnics as part of a potluck reunion for the family members. Soon after, Memorial Day marked the beginning of summer while Labor Day became known as the end of the season. I will admit, I feel like an ass. I knew the day was about memorializing our soldiers. I also knew it was meant to be a day of honor and respect. Truthfully, for years I’ve looked past these reasons of why Memorial Day exists. It morphed into a "freebie" day for me. Like whoo hoo, no school means an easy breezy schedule. Or in a past life when I used to shop for clothes, Memorial Day used to be the best day to get my summer attire at great prices. I should be embarrassed to admit all this but I’m more worried that my kids are clueless about this holiday because I never talk about it. Sure, I may have given my kids the quick “We don’t have school because this day is to remember those soldiers who have died in battle for us.” But nothing more than that. I’m not even sure if schools talk about this holiday anymore - I would guess it depends on the teacher. So I’ve decided to make a fresh start, it's never too late. I am offering up a thoughtful pinch now. I am not sure if anyone in my family has died while in the military service so I dedicate this poem to any and all.
The Memorial Day Embrace
by Barb Paton
When I was in elementary school, I knew all about Memorial Day
Isn’t it odd that as I got older, the meaning has faded away?
I’ve decided to embrace the awareness, instead of beating myself up
For feeling guilty about a barbecue and drinks in a red plastic cup.
I will teach my children now and remind them each year
These soldiers who died for our freedom had courage not fear.
We offer our condolences and respect for all of those who have lost
Because Americans live freely but these lives were the ultimate cost.
So each Memorial Day let’s light candles and sing
songs of gratitude, sorrow and joy - let freedom ring!
To Soldier Dad, Mother, Aunt, Uncle, woman or man
Son, Daughter, Brother, Sister, Grandpa or “Gran”.
Thank you for serving our country, your country - it was not in vain
We admire you, we honor you, we remember your pain.
After I read my poem to my son he asked me if Memorial Day is supposed to be a happy or sad holiday. I was tempted to read a quote by George S. Patton “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” However, I chose a much softer answer, “It’s both because we are sad that we lost all these great people but we have to celebrate that they lived courageous lives.” To which he suggested, “We can start with a happy holiday and then at night we can be sad.” I have a feeling the little guy has a point and that is why we have the barbecues and shopping sales.
I was bawling after a few minutes of scanning Pintrest for Memorial Day pinches. There are many ideas, picnic and pot luck recipes, quotes etc. But I will leave you with two nameless popular quotes that I found on the site which struck a chord for me. “Home of the Free because of the Brave” and “If you want to thank a soldier be the kind of American worth fighting for”.