As the cargo door opened, the sound of boots hitting the deck of returning Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines echoed. Then a cry bellowed from the tears, as family members saw their servicemen and women were safe. But that’s not what Memorial Day is about. What you don’t hear on that day is the pain and suffering, and the tears of sorrow that come from the loved ones of those that gave their lives so that others don’t have to. That is what Memorial Day is about - the ones that don’t make it back.
For me, Memorial Day used to be a long weekend at our cabin on the lake, a barbecue in the evening, and a night of the kids playing ghost in the graveyard. But as I aged, my father started telling me stories from his deployment, and I realized how much of a sacrifice Veterans give especially the ones that give their lives, to keep our country safe. That’s when I realized Memorial Day means more than a barbeque, and fun in the sun. I realized that, like so many Americans, I had been using the day for a day off of work or a weekend getaway. But that’s not appreciating who gave us this day.
Starting back in the Civil War, Memorial Day is meant to pay tribute to those who died for our freedoms, our liberty, and our rights. Now on Memorial Day, people think that if you see a veteran, you thank them for their service. While they may appreciate the gratitude, Memorial Day is not the day to honor the living veterans. That day is everyday, and like my father says when people see him wearing his Marine Corps veteran hat, and decide to thank him on Memorial Day “Thank you, but you’re thanking the wrong person, unless this is hell, and I am dead...” To me his reply defines Memorial Day, and how people should look at it.
Because it’s the cries from the family members of fallen warriors, the 21 gun salute, the flag draped over the casket that we should recognize as symbols of sacrifice. That is what Memorial Day is about - honoring the ultimate sacrifice.