This weekend is Memorial Day weekend. Most people are gearing up for a weekend at the lake, in the backyard bbq-ing, swigging beers and tossing the football around. Children running around yelling and whooping, the slight scent of coconut wafting off their skin from the sunblock their moms dutifully rubbed on. Women kvetching over paper plates piled high with pot-luck fares like potato salad and baked beans, men surrounding the grill in a re-enactment of man’s primitive circle around the fire. Flags fluttering in the breeze, a tradition done on instinct, because Dad did it, because his Dad did it, for who know how long.
That is not ALL Memorial Day is. Go to your nearest graveyard. See all the flags marching row and row, column and column? They are the main reason for Memorial Day. Those men and women who did what they could to ensure that the bbq and children running free across the yard was available to all. They put themselves in front of us to keep us safe, to keep us free. They elevated the safety of America above their own dreams and sometimes, their own lives.
I visited the grave of my Grandfather today. I cried. He’s been gone since 2006, and yet every time I go to clean his grave and leave him flowers, I am still sad, I still miss his presence. I tell him thank you every Memorial Day for what he did for our country in Europe 1944. It changed him, he once told me. It was in the trenches, trapped during the Battle of the Bulge, that he found God. When he came back, he tried so hard to put it all behind him. His hands shook from shellshock. He never touched a rifle again. He refused a military burial. He was proud of his country, loved America so much he made an emphasis on teaching Civics as a teacher after the war. He sacrificed much for his land, and I hope like hell that we today, in this soft and selfish land, can remember those who have done so much that we can sleep at night safely, without worry. My Grandfather, like many other men and women in our Armed Forces, gave his all and never expected much in return except the right to live his life in peace.
For all those anti-war asshole protesters yanking the flags off of graves, shredding the flowers left behind, chanting and stomping around the grave sites: What are you hoping to accomplish? Dishonoring the fallen dead will do what? Do you think it will win you any sympathy? Does it give credence to your cause? Or does it harden the hearts of those you anger and drive people further away from any compromise we might have reached? Want to make a radical statement, do ya? Then don’t be surprised when your get radical reactions. Leave our fallen heroes alone. Let the families that miss them so grieve in respectful peace. Go march at the mall. Consumer greed causes more bloodshed and pain than those dead folks ever will.
Want to know more? Head over to Andi Grant’s excellent description of Memorial Day. Want to help our vets? Check out Honor Flights or Disabled American Veterans. The Veterans of Foreign Wars is also a good group dedicated to helping our troops in their times of need.
Please take the time to thank the next Armed Service member you see. You’d be surprised how much it will make their day.
And say a prayer for our fallen forces tomorrow before you sit down for your big bbq supper.