Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

Today is Memorial Day. A day for parades and backyard barbecues. Generally, today is the day that unofficially starts the summer. The weather is mostly perfect (unless you live in Chicago), we all have a three day weekend, families travel to be closer together, friends start their summer activities and homeowners take the long weekend to do home improvement projects that have waited all winter to make it to the top of the 'to-do' list. There is a lot to do during this weekend; social agreements to be met, work to be avoided, hot dogs and hamburgers to be consumed- you know- important stuff.

Memorial Day has not always been so glamorous, nor should it be. Memorial Day was not originally about backyard barbecues, getting ready for the summertime, or finishing up projects around the house. Originally called by a different name (Decoration Day), Memorial Day is supposed to be about remembering those who have died in service to the United States of America. The most obvious group that this holiday applies to are the soldiers (past and present) of every branch of the Armed Forces. These American citizens voluntarily enter into one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet. They give years of their lives so that we can be free to enjoy "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

The 20th President of the United States (Garfield, who reigns from the Great State of Ohio!) once said "For the love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue." And for that, we give them a day in May where we should reflect on the sacrifice that they give willingly. Do we give them the respect that they deserve? The answer is an overwhelming "no"...

First, let me say that Memorial Day is for soldiers, but I also think that it should apply to law enforcement officers, paramedics, firefighters and anyone else who routinely puts their lives on the line for people they don't know. I think that it should apply to whoever a citizen calls when they are having an emergency.

Secondly, I think that the meaning of Memorial Day has been tossed by the wayside. Not unlike Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving and any other federal holiday that you can think of. We are not honoring our fallen. We don't reflect. We don't salute the Stars and Stripes, and I venture to say that the behavior of most citizens is not something that I would want to fight for. Just looking at the news I have seen stories about grave robbers, a failing economy because of overwhelming greed, unfathomable business practices, ridiculous celebrities, failing public educational system, and notably here in Illinois we have psychotic ex-husbands (Drew Peterson), and crazy violence that seems to be aimed at our school children. I wouldn't want to sacrifice my life for the above mentioned jackals. But every day, someone does. Every day several families in America hear that their son or daughter, mother, father, aunt, uncle or friend will not be coming home again. Everyday another brave soul does something that I could never do- they sign up for a branch of the Armed Forces. Everyday police officers, paramedics, firefighters and the like run into danger's grasp when any normal person would be running the other way. Everyday extraordinary American citizens wait for an announcement, some orders, that will break up their family for a portion of time, place them in danger and make their spouses worry and their children cry for a parent that is far away in some foreign land. Every day. So when should we celebrate Memorial Day? Not just every May... nah, Memorial Day should be observed every day.

Call a vet, a soldier, your neighbor who is a police officer, a firefighter, a paramedic, or their family- let them know that you appreciate all that they do, will do, have done... :)


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