May means many things to so many people. For teachers and school kids, it means the end of the school year. For seniors in high school or college, it means graduation. For local shops and stores, it means the sale of beautiful hanging baskets, flowers to be planted in pots and gardens to be seeded in preparation of the bountiful harvest that these plants will bring. May also means Mother’s Day, where families near and far, celebrate good old mom with dinners, lunches, and picnics.
But the most popular thing that happens in May, is Memorial Day. Always at the end of May, it signals the start of the summer season, even though it is not “officially” summer until June. Families plan picnics in parks and lakes, and in their own backyards. Swimming pools are open for the swimming season. Every year, downtown Wheeling features their annual Ogden Race. People flock to RV and camping parks and set up for barbeques and family fun. Summer and fun have officially begun.
But what everyone seems to forget is the main reason we have Memorial Day. According to the dictionary, Memorial Day is described as a federal holiday in the United States for mourning the U.S. military personnel who have died while serving in the United States armed forces. It is observed on the last Monday of May. It was originally known as Decorations Day, and it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.
Traditionally, on Memorial Day (U.S.), people visit cemeteries and memorials, and volunteers often place American flags on each gravesite at national cemeteries. A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time every year. In addition, most people display the American Flag proudly from their porches or yards. All good stuff, but did you know there are some things you should NEVER do on Memorial Day?
#1 DON’T WISH ANYONE A “HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY”
This is not Christmas – Memorial Day was not founded in joy with the promise of bringing glee each year. It was established as a way for the country to set aside time to honor the troops who had given their lives in service to America. Despite what the day has transitioned to in our American culture, it was established to honor and remember America’s fallen.
#2 DON’T THANK THE CURRENT TROOPS
Don’t thank them just because it’s Memorial Day. They deserve respect and gratitude every day of the year, but this day is set aside specifically for America’s fallen warriors from every war. America’s veterans are honored during November on Veteran’s Day when we aim to remember and appreciate the sacrifices of all veterans. Memorial Day allows the country to focus on those service members who are no longer with us which is an important distinction.
#3 DON’T DISREGARD ITS IMPORTANCE
Though sales and discounts abound for nearly everything from cars to furniture to pool supplies, that’s not what the holiday is about. When we focus only on the backyard barbecues or discounts on refrigerators, we allow the true meaning to become lost. Particularly when the country has perpetually been at war for the last 16 years, this isn’t something we can allow to happen. It’s ok to Grill some amazing steaks, and find the perfect mattress on sale, just don’t forget to raise a glass in honor of those servicemen and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
#4 DON’T FORGET IT EXISTS
Even worse than allowing the day to become synonymous with big sales and grilling steaks, is letting it slip from the public’s mind completely. When it becomes simply a highly anticipated extra morning of sleeping in, instead of the day of reflection and appreciation it was meant to be, we disrespect our fallen troops.
#5 And the MOST important: DON’T LET POLITICS KEEP YOU FROM RENDERING RESPECT
Even if you don’t agree with the idea of war, or the reasons America goes to war, or the policies of a particular president who was the Commander in Chief during a specific war, it doesn’t matter. People have defended the people and interests of America for over 200 years, and your right to disagree with the reasons for war should be separate from your opinion of the troops themselves.
SO, this month on Memorial Day Weekend, make sure you reflect on the fallen soldiers who sacrificed so much in defense of our great country. You can still grill and go to sales, but please make sure you show respect.
“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.”Lee Greenwood