Today is a special, but bittersweet day for many. For most people, Memorial Day is just the day you recognize as when all the pools open and everyone starts planning a trip to the beach. I admit that’s how I saw it as a kid. As we grow and learn about the hardships of this world, we come to appreciate it’s more profound meaning.
Memorial Day is, as declared in the act that made it a federal holiday in 1968, a date for remembering those who lost their lives in the wars that helped shape the history and character of a country. While I know it is trendy among certain crowds to criticize and even bemoan the character of a country that once owned slaves, that doesn’t make the sacrifice of these brave soldiers any less honorable.
Say what you will about those who craft the policy or agenda of a country, but those who choose to serve it are worthy of our respect and admiration. It takes a special something to be willing to lay your your body, your life, and your principles on the line for your country. That takes a strength that not everybody has.
I’m lucky enough to know some of that strength personally. I have close family members, both alive and deceased, who served in the United States Military in various forms. I have family who served back in World War II in the Pacific. I have family who served in the army. I even have one who served in Vietnam as a marine.
I see in these people who I love and cherish as embodiments of the strength it takes to serve. Just growing up with them, learning from them, and sometimes getting lectured by them have helped forge my character and that of my family. They help teach me what it means to be honorable, strong, and selfless.
Even those who didn’t serve directly in the armed forces still found ways to contribute. One of my female relatives worked in a torpedo factory during World War II. She did that when other relatives tried to discourage her out of concern for her safety, but she did it anyways. She was just that kind of strong.
Even with this strength, though, there were losses. These same relatives who show such strength and honor for their service also show the price that comes with that service. Some of the people they served with never came home. There were also plenty that did who did not come back in one piece, physically and mentally.
These days, that price is easy to overlook in an era of political upheaval and evolving agendas. My family understands that more than most, but not as much as some have suffered. On a day like this, it’s important to remember and reflect on those who suffered fron their sacrifice. Their losses have helped ensure that we have a society and civilization in which we can thrive.
Even though war, as a whole, has been in decline over the past century, such progress was only possible through the sacrifice of these soldiers. Some of them never got to live to see the world they helped create. Some may never know just how much their toil helped shape the world. That makes days like this that much more important.
Beyond the parades and barbecues, it’s just as critical to honor the spirit that every active soldier and experienced veteran embodies. Whether it’s within your own family or in those close to you, today is a day to celebrate the ideals they pursued and the burdens they bore.
It’s also a great time to contribute to any veteran-related charities. Some include The Wounded Warrior Project and Home For Our Troops. Whether it’s contributing money or just spending time with those close to you who served, every little act helps to honor their sacrifice.
Once more, to all who serve now and to all who have served before, especially those who are no longer with us, I thank you for your strength and your sacrifice. Happy Memorial Day and please continue to honor the ideals that make this country and others worth defending.