Memorial Day Considerations

I thought I’d offer a re-post from Memorial Day 2011. This post was first published within my first month of blogging, so I’m quite sure only my family read it. Memorial Day in the United States is in May, but  the context of remembering those who have lost their lives in service to their country is for all of us, no matter what country we call home.

I recently heard a radio discussion championing the restoration of Memorial Day to its original date, May 30th, rather than the last Monday of the month and the convenience of three-day weekends.  The dialogue caught my attention because I admit I do enjoy the advantage of lengthy Memorial holidays and for many years this particular weekend has been a travel opportunity for priceless family reunions.

I carefully listened to the argument because the person speaking had the only credentials in this discussion that merited attention. As a veteran, his concern was that the original intention of the holiday had shifted to some kind of season opener to summer activity. Although I gratefully acknowledge the sacrifice of men and women who have lost their lives defending our nation, I certainly know that I do not carry the same level of awareness as those who have experienced active military duty. And that goes for their families, too. I recently learned that a good friend of mine is awake long into the night, unable to restore restful sleep patterns now that her son is home from Iraq.  During his lengthy deployment she couldn’t sleep knowing he was in continual danger.  He returned without injury, but the pattern of fear  left anxieties that continue to interrupt her sleep. I wonder if that is a forever change.

I am going to think a little more about the veteran’s request that we petition elected officials to return the Memorial Day observance to its original date, but while I wait for that potential change, I can be a little more mindful, and a lot more grateful. Although there have been members of my family who have served in military conflict, they have returned home. I want to honor those who did not.

CNN featured the story of a young man, I believe still in high school, who started Project Preserveand Honor, “A virtual place for loved ones and friends to both locate the graves of the fallen, and reflect on the memory of their sacrifice.”   I’ve been reading the biographies of some of the young men and women who recently lost their lives in service, and offering up a prayer for those they left behind.

I really should be more continually aware of the sacrifices others have made in contribution of national defense, but it is often easy for life to crowd out that sensitivity.   Certainly members of our  Armed Forces deserve specific attention and honor one specific day a year. Memorial Day does give us motivation to hang our American Flag and contemplate the sacrifice of a relative few for the rest of us.


34 thoughts on “Memorial Day Considerations

    • What a sobering statistic, Carl! All from one school! I read your post this morning, and I am heartily in agreement that enough is enough in Afghanistan. Remembering the cost of lives in Vietnam does create a sense of urgency. Memorial Day means all that much more when we remember specific young men and women. Debra

  1. One of the men in my Rotary Club just got sent back to Afghanistan for a year. (He was last there for a year in 2006.) He owns a business, has small kids, and still didn’t mind being called up again. I’m going to be celebrating him wholeheartedly tomorrow.

    • I am in complete awe of the men and women who have been called back to service more than once. I can’t begin to know what that has done to so many young children who have had such disrupted childhoods. I admire those who have endured during this time. I’m glad you have someone in your Rotary who so well represents these awesome people! I am glad you shared your focus for tomorrow, Andra! It’s a good focus! Debra

  2. We have ours in November, with poppies. It’s very high profile: and I feel the whole ritual of remembering honours those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our shores. I sound like an advert 🙂 But only by remembering do we have a complete picture which facilitates wisdom in the future.

    • I would love to see some pictures of the memorial events from the UK, Kate. The poppies would be a very beautiful addition and probably really strengthen the ritual with added meaning. I think it’s so important that we do commemorate our war dead and for many reasons, of course. But the one that comes to mind so easily is that some have paid, as you say, the ultimate sacrifice, so the rest of us have greater safety and security. I have looked up and down my street and I think there is only one other flag out…I am probably a little old-fashioned about such things, but it makes me sad. It’s really not supposed to be all about a barbecue! I’m glad you agree! Debra

  3. My Grandfather fought. My father was in the RAF back in the 40s. Both fought for a better future and lived. I feel obliged to help with that future. I have not fought. Had either died, I would not be here. Please remember to honour those who fought and lived, as well as those who died for their country. Also perhaps think of how they would see our current situations – was it worth all their efforts? What did they hope and fight for? Remember them all.

    • I do agree with you about remembering all. Am I correct to assume that you are from the UK? If so, you might not know that in the U.S. we have a November holiday, Veteran’s Day, which certainly does specifically honor those who have served and returned. On purely a technical note, Memorial Day is for those who perished. But I do believe that for most of us our considerations go to anyone who has served, since you are so right, they fought for a better future for all of us. And yes I must ask questions similar to yours in wondering how they would consider our current state of affairs. We are indeed living in sobering times. Thank you so much for sharing your very personal and thoughtful words. I do mean that. You have reason to be very proud of your grandfather’s and father’s service. Debra

  4. Great post Debra. We celebrate ANZAC Day on April 26. It used to be celebrated on either the closest Friday or Monday to that date to create a long weekend but people began to think that was disrespectful because it made it seem more like a holiday than a day of reflection so it was changed back to being the 26th. This year it was on a Wednesday. I think it’s a good thing! xx

    • I recall you wrote about your grandfather being a POW, didn’t you? Your post made an impression on me and also introduced me to ANZAC Day. I am really interested to hear that the three-day weekend was changed to reflect observance on the original date! I almost cannot imagine that change taking place here in the United States. I’m fully in favor of assigning one date, and creating a deliberate focus on memorial activities. As only one example among many, I heard a commercial on the radio for a well-known car dealership today, inviting everyone to “come on down” to the showroom, “We’ll be bar-b-cueing all weekend.” No attempt, sincere or otherwise, to tie-in the Memorial Day meaning…I suppose you can’t really do that and sell cars! I’ll fly my flag and have my own little moment tomorrow! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Charlie! Debra

  5. I understand the Vet’s point, then again, do we do that with the other holidays that have established three day weekends? Then again, let’s no forget the influence of the travel industry lobby.

    Nonetheless, a good post Debra – and yes, I imagine most of us are like you …. me too … that we should ponder more about the meaning and honoring the day.

    • No we don’t really do that with the other holidays, Frank, but I’m one who would probably me most inclined to favor that we did! I am sure the travel industry would take another hit, and that’s not good, but sometimes I guess I wish we would give a holiday it’s due, or maybe stop pretending that it means so much. I really feel that for most of the people I observe it’s just a season opener. Little more…but maybe that’s just the crowd I hang around with. I may need new people! Thanks for sharing, Frank. You are always so balanced in your positions–you add perspective. Debra

      • In reference to Frank’s comment, here in Illinois we do have some other Monday’s that have taken place of the actual date. Growing up, we always had Lincoln’s birthday off (and I think George Washington’s) in February. Now we have President’s Day in February, on a Monday, the same with Martin Luther King’s birthday, and we used to have Veteran’s Day on November 11, now it is a Monday.

        What interesting thoughts and comments your post has brought about, Debra. Thank you, again.

    • Thank you for the link, Nancy. I found it very interesting to note how some of the Eastern European memorial events were tied directly to religious observances. I definitely learned something new there! I think I might be interested in reading more about how different countries have chosen particular dates. I don’t even know why we celebrate Memorial Day in May! I have some googling to do! Thanks for getting me started on my little mini-study! Debra

  6. I hadn’t heard of memorial day until this year, and as a direct result of blogging. Here we have Rememberance Sunday in November / Armistice Day – the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month. And it’s not a holiday. Maybe that’s the difference?

    • I have read some very interesting blogs today from all over the U.S., and with comments coming from blogging friends all over the world there has been so much additional information added. I’ve enjoyed that! I haven’t previously heard of Remembrance Sunday! And I rarely hear “Armistice Day” here in the U.S., but we commemorate that date and now call it Veteran’s Day…I think it was called Armistice when I was a child. It is a holiday for some occupations. I think most schools close, so that’s popular 🙂 The difference with Memorial Day is that the focus is intended to be on those who gave their lives in service, and Veterans Day/Armistice honors all veterans. Probably much more than you really wanted to know, Claire! Ha! You can tell it’s been on my mind today. I’m so glad you stopped by…I’m going to read a bit about Remembrance Sunday. I like the sound of that…Debra

    • This is one of those areas where I’ve always believed that, Karen, but I think the older I get I “feel” it more. It may be because I’m so tuned into the staggering numbers of WW II Vets who are leaving us. Just makes me a little sober! I enjoyed listening to some wonderful interviews on the radio today, and felt I did have a day of commemorating in my own way. I hope you did, too 🙂 Debra

  7. A thought-provoking post, Debra. As Kate says, we have Remembrance Sunday here in the UK (on the Sunday nearest November 11). It is marked by the laying of wreaths of poppies at town and village war memorials all over the country, plus a big parade in London with the Royal Family and senior politicians attending and laying wreaths at the national war memorial, the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

    In recent years there has been a revival of the original post WW1 custom of holding a 2 minute silence at 11am on the 11 November, to mark the time and date the guns fell silent. This isn’t organised and those who want to join in just stop what they are doing and mark the moment.

    • I must make a point of finding photos or who knows, maybe even a video, next year on Remembrance Sunday! There must be a very solemn beauty connected to the laying of the poppy wreaths. And I love the custom of the two minute silence! The fact that it isn’t an organized “event” but instead comes from the hearts of those who choose to intentionally mark the moment is very meaningful, and I guess in some way that’s how I chose to go about my day today. I was simply as mindful as I could be about the sacrifices that others have made. Earlier this year I was curious and googled my way around looking at some of the many war memorials in the UK and couldn’t believe how many, and how beautiful! I am sure there is a lot of historical context connected to each one. I’d enjoy learning more, and probably will! I’m so glad you shared, Perpetua. Debra

  8. It is so fitting and appreciated that you reposted this, Debra. Thank you.

    I am old enough to remember when Memorial Day was on the 30th. If it fell in the middle of the week, then that is when it was observed, and a trip to the cemetery was always part of it for many of us. My dad, a few of his cousins, and his best friends, who all served in WWII, two seriously injured, would pack up the car and go up to the north woods of Wisconsin fishing. I have a picture of him in his fishing gear sitting here near my desk. It was their time together and I think it helped them in dealing with the trauma of war.

    I can understand the veteran’s concerns. Memorial Day now means not only a three day weekend, but sales galore for everything from food to merchandize and even cars with fewer and fewer attending commemorative services at graves sites or memorials. Many were in dismay when it was changed to Monday, then it became routine. It can sway back again. I think it will be interesting to see if the idea takes hold to move this back to May 30.

    A timely and a provocative post, Debra. The most important thing is that we do always remember the sacrifices made by so many in the loss of lives.

    • I’m glad you jogged my memory, Penny, because I didn’t look it up, but I thought I could remember when it was always the 30th. I don’t know when it changed, but of course when we were younger all the holidays were associated with particular dates…before the three-day weekend became the norm! That’s a strong family memory, I’m sure, if your dad and so many members of the family all served in WW II. I think that must really mark a family in a particular way. My own dad was a young teenager during the war, and my grandfather considered too old. But even they were part of “war efforts” here at home and I was raised to truly respect the sacrifice of so many families.

      We find ways to pay respect, and if we pass this along to our children and grandchildren that is something important! Thanks for your thoughts, Penny. I am really moved to think of how many in your family served in WW II. We are losing that wonderful Greatest Generation in droves as you well know. Their incredible civic mindedness will be a big loss! oxo D

  9. I have mixed feelings about this, Debra. Some of my friends refer to Memorial Day as “Decoration Day” and go to decorate family graves. Others have the first barbecue of the year. So much of what our military and our “intelligence services” get up to are things I don’t believe anyone should be doing. While sleepless parents, wives, partners and children have my sympathy, I wish we as a nation could learn to think very carefully before entering into armed conflicts and sacrificing the lives of any human beings.

    • Well, I certainly can’t argue with you about your overall feelings that military intelligence and activities leading up to the U.S. entering into military conflict may be less than honorable. I think I probably compartmentalize a bit here. Although I was firmly against entering Iraq and Afghanistan, I have many friends with children and grandchildren who have served, or are still serving. One good friend was very active in protest to the Vietnam War and has just grieved that her grandson enlisted and is in Afghanistan. I would love to think that maybe someday we’d be much more circumspect as a nation before sacrificing so many young lives, but I’m not very hopeful. But I did spend the day listening to some very good radio interviews with WW II vets and that was about all I was able to muster today in recognition. In the end it’s attitude, I guess, and not the date! Thanks for your thoughts, Sharyn. I’m very glad to have your very thoughtful perspective. Debra

    • Well, thank you so much! I will look forward to responding to the award, although it may take me a while to do so! I had to laugh at the name…Creative Chaos is certainly my life right now. That’s almost too funny! I’m really pleased to have you enjoy the blog…isn’t the connecting we all do so delightful? To me that’s the most important part. So thank you! I will certainly make that effort before too long 🙂 Debra

  10. Great post, Debra, this is something we should all be thinking about. It’s stories like yours about the impact of military service on the family members of veterans or those in active service that illustrate how deep the scars of war go. So many suffer so much because of the extended effect of war. The son of one of my editors committed suicide several months after returning from Iraq – no one knew the hidden hell he was enduring inside, he hid it so well. My heart and undying appreciation go out to veterans and their families.

    • I’ve been shocked to hear the statistics of young men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who are taking their own lives! How truly devastating to your friend and the young man’s whole family. I have been slowly gaining a little information on some organizations designed to support our returning Vets and I might begin sharing my research into these organizations if for no other reason than to keep the discussion alive. Seeing how violence is escalating in Syria I’m so concerned that there may eventually be even more involvement from our already over-taxed military. We are indeed living in very sobering times, aren’t we! Debra

  11. One of my cousins who lived “Upstairs” in the old two-flat served in Vietnam and was there during the first Tet Offensive. I was a boy and can remember hearing the radio playing all night long as his parents, my ZIa and Uncle, listened for news of how his base was faring.
    I didn’t agree with that war nor have I agreed with the wars since.

    • I haven’t been positive about the wars, that’s for certain. I was in a room with other people who were very upbeat when we entered Iraq, and I burst into tears. (That was an awkward moment)…but I hbelieve my original indicators have been vindicated. However, I have a tremendous soft spot in my heart for those who serve. They enter for various reasons. Sometimes I might not understand, but once they’ve committed themselves to their service, I want to be sure that they feel appreciation for the sacrifices they do make. It’s not an easy conversation, and probably shouldn’t be. Thanks for your thoughts, John. And I am sure your cousin’s time in Vietnam was one of tremendous angst for your Zia and Uncle. I really can’t imagine! Debra

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