While the origins of Memorial Day continue to be mired in controversy and folklore, and despite a presidential proclamation fifty years ago recognizing a certain U.S. as the ‘birthplace’ of Memorial Day, more than two dozen U.S. cities still claim to be the source of the holiday, the intent of the day remains the same – to honor the war dead, the men and women who gave their lives in service to this country.
Many lose sight of that sometimes, especially if they have no direct connection to the military, i.e. related to, married to, or knows someone in the military, active or inactive. For those people, if they’re fortunate, it’s a day off, giving them a three-day weekend to enjoy.
But for some of us, it’s a time of remembrance, reflection and gratitude. Wreathes and flowers will be left on grave sites, photo albums will be shared and stories told…once again, and younger family members will hear about the family hero they never had the chance to meet.
Presidential administrations, politicians…and their pundits, will come and go, but what stands the test of time are the rights and freedoms we enjoy as citizens of this country. Some may look to, and credit the ‘founding fathers’, but nothing in the Constitution was agreed upon with a handshake. Battles were fought, lives were lost. Those who met the enemy on the battlefield were not there for political favor or financial gain. They fought for their way of life and the right to keep it. With this country’s history, brother may have very well found himself facing off against his brother.
These beliefs are strong and they are what lead many to answer the call. No one enlists in the military because of their political affiliation, their stance on reproductive rights, or their religious beliefs. They take the oath to uphold the Constitution and defend this country from enemies, foreign and domestic, to ensure that the right to choose, or not choose, these things, and so many more remain in place. And, they do so knowing in some cases, it could mean making the ultimate sacrifice.
The rights we take for granted and debate and argue about over social media and the freedoms we enjoy while living our lives as we choose, came with a price. And it’s time to remember those who paid that price.
On Monday while you’re manning the grill, having family time, reading a book, or maybe even heading to work, take a moment to truly reflect on the significance of Memorial Day…and say, “Thank you.”