For many Memorial Day is just another holiday. Another day off work. Another excuse to get together with friends and BBQ. Another chance to go to the lake and live it up. But for many it is not a time of celebration. It’s a time of sadness as they remember loved ones lost who gave their life as the ultimate sacrifice serving our country.
Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” after the American Civil War. It began as a way to decorate the graves of the fallen Union soldiers with flowers, and remember the sacrifice they gave. Over time the holiday merged with a Confederate holiday tradition observed on a different day, and became known as Memorial Day.
Growing up I only knew the holiday as Memorial Day. My family had no specific traditions that had been carried on to honor fallen veterans. Like many, it was just a time we spent at the lake with friends and family. As I grew older I was exposed to a celebration that my now ex-husbands family referred to as Decoration. It seemed so strange to me. They gathered at a country cemetery, placed flowers on graves of lost family members, stood around the graves talking, and then had a pot luck lunch right outside the cemetery gates. At first I just chalked it up to being a “country” thing. I never knew anyone that celebrated it in that manner. After participating in this event several years, and becoming an adult, I began to realize the importance behind the real holiday. What I once thought seemed so odd became something I respected and now understood. (However I still think it’s strange to eat lunch right outside the cemetery gates!)
As time has gone on and I have gotten older, the holiday has come to mean more to me. While I personally have not lost a loved one that served in the military, I have close friends who have. I now understand the sacrifice made by our US military, as well as their families. I have seen the struggles families go through while their loved ones are deployed. I see the pain and heartache of close friends who lost a loved one while serving our country, giving the ultimate sacrifice. For those who lost loved ones, this holiday can be very bittersweet. It’s a nice time to remember their loved one, but it can be a time of sadness also, thinking about the great loss in their life. For many, the loss was of a life way too young. A life that really had just begun. A life that was dedicated to serving our country and protecting our freedoms.
As you celebrate Memorial Day this year, take time to think about what it’s really all about. Take time to think about the wives, husbands, parents, siblings, children who lost a loved one serving our country, protecting our freedoms. Think about the sacrifice those veterans made, and the sacrifice their survivors make every day of their lives.
Decoration Day, Memorial Day, whatever you choose to call it, remember that it’s not just a holiday. It’s a time to remember.