Soon folks will be packing up their cars and hitting the road for the three day weekend that has come to define the beginning of summer. When I was working, I looked forward to it as a welcome respite to the longest period of the year between paid holidays, the three months between President’s Day and Memorial Day. Not big fans of huge crowds, we rarely joined the masses flocking to the beaches, parks or popular camping spots but we almost always barbecued. Often friends would join us in our backyard or we in theirs. Red, white and blue seemed to be the uniform of the day. It was celebratory rather than solemn.
The true uniform of the day is that worn by the members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard who paid the ultimate price to protect our great nation. The holiday, which actually started as decoration day, was established shortly after the Civil War when women would place flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers. It wasn’t until after World War 1 that it was expanded to honor those who died in all American Wars. And it didn’t become an official National Holiday until an act of congress made it so in 1971. Well over half a million servicemen and women have been killed in the various conflicts since the civil war. Many more have been injured. It is only right that we take time to honor the sacrifice they made on our behalf.
The way I view Memorial Day has changed over the past few years. Both of my children are currently in the military. We have friends whose son was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan four times. One of my daughter’s close friends from college was killed on his very first deployment to Afghanistan. That is too close to home to ignore. So go ahead and have your barbecue or hit the road to your favorite beach or park, but take just a little time out to remember and honor those who make your freedom to travel, barbecue and celebrate possible. It is the least we can do for those who gave their all.