Memorial Day, and my Unpopular Feelings

memorial day

Sticking with Erika Napoletano’s belief of The Power of Unpopular, I’m going to go with my gut and say a few things that will probably tick a few people off. I’m okay with that – it happens when you say stuff that’s unpopular.

Memorial Day falls under the category of ‘holidays that piss me off’. Originally, Memorial Day (which was known by several other names, and held on several different dates in different parts of the country/world) was created in order to remember fallen soldiers. The original Memorial Day in America was mostly a Northern ‘holiday’, and was specific to soldiers of the Civil War until after World War I. Back then, people took the time to decorate cemeteries (not just Arlington) and sold red poppies to benefit the orphans and widows of fallen soldiers. It was a day of remembrance, and dedication, right up until 1971 when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act went into effect here in the states. This act specifically moved certain holidays to a Monday for one purpose: to ensure a certain number of three-day-weekends for federal employees.

So now, we have a day of remembrance turned into a time for vacations and parties.

And, that’s exactly what it’s become. 

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I was in JROTC at two different high schools and nearly all of my close male friends shipped off to Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of those young men came home. Some of those young men didn’t. Those who didn’t come home, often came home as fragments of who they were when we left.

So today, you won’t find me at a parade. Those have stopped around here, for some reason. You won’t find me at a party, as there’s nothing to celebrate. You won’t find me on the lake or at a BBQ, throwing back a beer in front of men – our soldiers – who watched their friends die and try not to remember it every day…much less be forced to think about it for three days of ‘federal holiday’ time.

 I once read, while researching for school, that nearly every man who goes to war dies. Some men die and come home to be buried. Some men die and come home as someone else, often as mere shadows of who they used to be. Today, I’ll likely take a trip to a cemetery to kiss a face I dearly miss. I’ll spend some time remembering those I’ve lost to war, as I do so often. I’ll take some time to remember who my loved ones were before war stole their spirit and sent them back.

Veteran’s Day is a day to thank Veterans for the service they provided to ensure our freedoms. Memorial Day, though…for me, Memorial Day is reserved to remember and honor all the broken pieces that never made it home. 

Comments

  1. I appreciate your stance. My husband and I have two small boys named after infantry soldiers he served with. Both were excellent soldiers, but even better men. For folks like us everday is Memorial Day. We choose to have a life of excellence…one that our friends would have been proud of. Xo Heather
    Heather Paulding recently posted…Naturally-sourced Bug Spray for Roses {DIY}My Profile

  2. What a completely beautiful and honest post; I completely agree with it all. Any army or service-related holiday leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Those who join the service do so to do something good for their country, even if that doesn’t turn out to be the case. Regardless, they certainly don’t ship off just to be forgotten about. We can have all the parades we want to say thank you, but that is never enough. In reality, Memorial Day is really a selfish holiday for all of us who want to have a day off of work and a barbecue, while those we are supposed to be remembering and memorializing are suffering everyday, or are already long gone and forgotten about. Thank you again for sharing these thoughts!

  3. I was expecting you to say something that might actually offend someone. I have no idea how anyone could perceive this sincere post as offensive.

    I’m a pacifist, from a long line of pacifists, who grew up in a community of pacifists. So on Remembrance Day, as we call it in Canada, I do things like read anti-war literature. Yeah, that sounds really stuck-up. Probably is. But I do this because I want to remember the victims of war. I want to empathize. To at least, through my mind, stand with those affected by it. The sadness can turn to anger, and sometimes I find myself thinking insensitively towards those who praise war as a noble or worthwhile cause. Whether or not it is, war hasn’t touched me the way it has touched many.

    Now, having left my peaceful community, I live in a town surrounded by veterans. When I first arrived, I was disgusted to find that the Canada Day parade included tanks. Maybe this is an appropriate response to a weapon made for killing human beings, yet I shouldn’t let my disgust turn to judgement. I can read all I like, but I don’t know what it’s like to lose a young friend, as they surely do. Your story humbles me, and breaks my heart.
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