Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day weekend

It's Memorial Day weekend.  A time where you see and hear lots of patriotic comments and also come across some highly emotional opinions on this holiday.

I've had some thoughts lately about the weekend that I thought I would share.

A caveat to begin with.  As a service member's spouse I think I have a little more perspective on the topic than the average American citizen.  That being said, despite my husband's 10 years on active duty and numerous deployments, I have never been touched directly by someone I knew dying in combat.  Of course I know people who have passed away but not in a close or personal way.  The Gold Star Families among us have, I'm sure, many opinions on this matter that hold a great deal more weight than mine.  I say the following humbly and with full responsibility that I could be wrong.

First - Memorial Day is to honor service members who have died protecting their country.  Its not a time to honor those who have served so honorably, but survived.  They have a holiday - its called Veterans Day.

Second - the whole topic of whether or not saying "Happy Memorial Day" is ok ...  I agree with those who say it makes them feel a little sick to hear it.  I understand it.  If I had been touched by death closely and this was a weekend that brought it all back for me - I too would bristle at that.  But I think so many people - myself included- don't know what else to say ... Is it too long to say "Its Memorial Day. Never Forget"? I like that one.

Third - A lot of people get indignant at the idea of people having barbecues over Memorial Day weekend.  Here is what I think - It is very important that we make time during this long weekend to honor and remember those who have died for our country.  Yesterday my plans to attend the flag laying at our post's cemetery were foiled by the rain (we aren't afraid of rain but all our extra clothes and shoes are boxed up).  But I do hope to take my kids to the ceremony that will be held tomorrow and I do plan to talk to them about what the day means.  And I plan to tell them about Jared Van Aalst and Lt Col Rob Baldwin and my own Great Uncle Dick who all gave their lives for this country and left wives and children to grieve in their wake.
That being said I know that those men gave their lives because of what this country stands for.  As we remember and drink a toast to them is it really so bad if we also enjoy our friends and loved ones too?  I seem to think that this weekend is big enough for both.

Fourth - Remember those who are left behind.  Not just this weekend but always.  Remember the anniversary of the death and reach out to the survivors to let them know you remember.   And I don't just mean the family members. I also mean their brothers and sisters in arms who carry so much on their shoulders already but especially in the wake of the death of their comrades.  Be sensitive to them.  And even if your words feel awkward put yourself out their enough to ask them about the remembrance bracelet they wear ... they need to know their grief is not only their own.

Again, these are just my thoughts and musings.  I welcome any feedback if you think my thoughts are misplaced as long as you do it gently.  Thank you.