This past Monday I had the opportunity to attend my first military Memorial Day service. It was held in a cemetery where many veterans lay. As I walked through the grave site reading the tombstones of the fallen, there was a solemn sense of peace and a soothing stillness among their resting place. It was much different than I expected. As the soft wind blew through my fingers I felt the pride and bravery of the fallen and experienced a newfound appreciation for the true meaning of Memorial Day.
For so many years, my reason for celebrating Memorial Day was because it ushered in the start of summer fun and warm weather. It meant three day weekends, cookouts and parties and sleeping in on Monday morning. It was a time to catch up on needed rest and chores around the house. It meant the chance to have a weekend getaway or complete unfinished projects. I never thought twice about the real meaning of Memorial Day.
It’s not uncommon to see the usual heart-felt Facebook post wishing family and friends a Happy Memorial Day. However, when we take a critical eye at the holiday and think about what a memorial really means, perhaps we should ask ourselves, is it really a happy day? Have we overlooked what a “memorial” truthfully means? Have we forgotten about the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our country? Have we forgotten about the so many others who came back from wars wounded, not only physically but mentally, as they repeatedly relive the horrific images seen on the battlefield?
As a little girl growing up, there was only one person who I personally knew had served in the military and that was my grandfather. He served and left the military many years before I was even born so I had little understanding of the amount of dedication required of service members. I also had no idea of the emotional toll and stress this commitment could take on military families. Now, as I’ve gotten older and have personally committed to serving my country in the military and have many friends in the armed forces, I have come to understand first-hand how difficult a road this is to walk.
The truth is, less than one percent of the country has volunteered to serve in such a capacity and many private citizens have little understanding of military life. Nevertheless, Memorial Day is the perfect opportunity for all of us to intentionally remember with a spirit of gratitude and purposeful reflection, the ultimate sacrifice our service members have given. It is my hope that for this Memorial Day and for all of the other’s to come it be a day that you always remember and will never forget.