Memorial Day has been around since the close of the Civil War (originally called Decoration Day). It has been a federal holiday since 1971, and is meant to honor those who died serving in the US military.
Every year I observe some of what has been colloquially referred to as “Barbecue Shaming,” where we are admonished that enjoying this holiday with cookouts and family visits is somehow disrespectful to the memories of our fallen Soldiers. I know that this day is profoundly sad for many who lost loved ones to armed conflict, and do not want to diminish the importance of their grief for them. I have lost friends and colleagues, and have seen the devastating impact on families back home when they learn that family members will not return to greet their loved ones; when children lose their parents; when a parent learns their new child will never even get to meet their other parent… It is a pain I would never wish for anyone to feel.
Nevertheless, I think everyone should enjoy their day off, if they get one, and enjoy their barbecues.
Life is fleeting, whether one serves in the military or not. We should take every moment we can to enjoy our friends and family. We all grieve in our own way; hopefully, as the pain subsides, we can remember those we lost in a different context. We must acknowledge the loss, but perhaps can remember them as they were, and celebrate the time that we had with them.
This Memorial Day, if you have big plans for fun times, please enjoy. If you served, take a moment to reflect on those who didn’t come back with you. If you lost someone you loved, celebrate their life as well as mourn their loss. If you haven’t been directly affected, consider reflecting on the sacrifice these folks were willing to make for their country. It isn’t necessary that you support military action to take stock of someone’s willingness to put everything on the line. Above all, take stock in the friends and family you have, and take none of them for granted. There’s no shame in that.