One of the longest standing traditions is the running of the Indianapolis 500, which has been held in conjunction with Memorial Day since 1911.That is from the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry on Memorial Day. Absurd. For most Americans, today is a day to picnic, barbecue, party - to celebrate the beginning of summer and the opening of the beaches. It is a day off work, a three-day weekend, a time to catch up on sleep or go visit relatives.
For very few does Memorial Day hold any more (or any different) meaning than Veterans Day, Labor Day, or any of the other “observed on a Monday” holidays.
This was always the case for me, as well.
Until recently, Memorial Day meant nothing to me. I didn’t care, I didn’t know anyone who had died in battle, I didn’t see any reason for remembering ghosts.
But these last few years have been different. I’ve realized that remembering those who have died is a way of showing respect for those fighting. It’s a way of letting them know that, yes, we do care about you, and do appreciate the sacrifices you make.
Even while staunchly disagreeing about America’s involvement in Iraq it is important to recognize the sacrifice our young women and men are making in the military. They aren’t the ones who started the war; those who do are never the ones who fight it. The men and women overseas in harm’s way are there because of the opportunities offered to them in the Armed Services: an education, technical training, companionship, honor, discipline - a lot of things many of them weren’t about to find otherwise (or at least were led to believe so). They are there for their families and for themselves and because they think that what they are doing will make the country a safer, better place. Who are we, on the opposite side of the globe, protected by our liberal arts degrees and living in our cozy East Coast/West Coast apartments and condos, to question their motives?
Question Bush and Congress all you want. But not the children whose lives are being put at stake daily, the men and women who are being trained (if not brainwashed) to serve their country in one particular way. Our country is full of inequality, and war highlights one of them rather boldly. Given the choice, all soldiers would rather be at home with their loved ones, not fighting. But in too many communities, for too many of our soldiers - they have no choice. If they want a good life, if they want to attend college, the military is the only way out.
Let us give them due respect not as soldiers, not for their fighting, but as Americans just trying to do what every one of us tries to do. This Memorial Day, think of those who don’t deserve to be overseas dying. Think of those all over the world who have died because of the actions of a few so-called leaders. Think of the innocent children, the broken families, the pain and heartbreak caused by politicians pressing a button from the safety of their respective government buildings.
Bring them home. They deserve this barbecue every bit as much as the rest of us. Bring them home and we can actually celebrate.