So many Americans believe that the Memorial Day Weekend is the official start of summer, a time to vacation at the beach or go camping with the family. All this may be true but it means much more to those who have served in the Armed Forces or have lost loved ones in the service of their country. Memorial Day traces its roots back to the Civil War. More American Soldiers died in the Civil War than any other conflict in our history. Shortly after that war ended, communities across America began grass root spring time memorials to honor those they lost. Waterloo, New York has been honored as the birthplace of Memorial Day. In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which established the last Monday in May as Memorial Day. This law went into effect in 1971.
Memorial Day should be a focus on those we lost and to assist the families that our hero’s left behind. I believe Memorial Day has lost its true meaning in America. This is because most Americans do not feel the burden that our Armed Service Members feel every day. In World War Two, the civilians back at home suffered along with those fighting over seas. They dealt with shortages of food and gasoline and other untold hardships. Back then Americans took ownership of the conflict and were vested in the war effort. Today the general civilian public has no such vested interest in combat overseas. They don’t share the burdens of the war effort like yesterday. Approximately 9 percent of Americans serve in the military; the weight of war is carried by these military members and the families who support them. The rest of the population of America needs to carry a weight of sacrifice. Then and only then will Memorial Day become the Holiday it was meant to be.
Back in 2003, while in Iraq, I really thought that the American Public cared for the soldiers who toiled in hardship, suffered fatal injuries, disability and mental trauma. When I came home, I found that it was business as usual and with the exception of short reports on the nightly news; the war was generally forgotten.
What can we do differently? My family has had a tradition of going to the Vietnam Memorial near our home on Memorial Day and thank Veterans for their service. We discuss the importance of our military members sacrifice and talk about why words such as courage, honor, and duty are so important. In reality every day should be Memorial Day, we should continually strive to honor those we lost and never forget their sacrifice.
In Flanders Fields
John McCrae, 1915.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.