Memorial Day is Complicated

This holiday is complicated for me. Every year, roughly a week before the actual holiday, my social media feeds are full of comments, shares etc. about what the day means while also chastising those who are not in the know. Memorial Day honors those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country, our country.

It isn’t Veterans Day where we celebrate those who have served. Memorial Day is more of a remembrance than a holiday, so many in the veteran community are quick to right their perceived wrong by calling to task “civilians” who are ignorant of the difference. I say chill out. For my veteran friends out there who are up in arms about those taking advantage of the three-day weekend to BBQ or take to the beach while not fully grasping the day’s significance, just let it be. The fact is less than a half of one percent of the population has served during our most recent times of crisis. Blame it on Vietnam and the all volunteer military, but we can’t continue to fault those who are not aware. Educate, of course, chastise, no way.

The military has become a class within the United States, a separate culture – a warrior culture. So, though many of us have been on deployment after deployment and carried the nation’s burden while our politicians routinely fail in their foreign policy, we can’t fault those who have chosen a different path. As a father, I hope my children choose a different path, and if my service had anything to do with their ability to choose a life outside of the military, then the service and sacrifice was worth it.

Ultimately, the fewer of us who are personally impacted by the day’s significance the better. I’d never suggest not treating the day as the sacred day it is to many of us. Like many of you I’ve lost close friends; I bear the burden. It’s what I choose to do, and I continue to do so. Today, when I’m unable to hit the over crowded beaches or reserve a campsite or park cabana, I simply tell myself it was their sacrifice that continues to allow the people of our beloved country to live freely, happily and, often, without reservation for those who provided those freedoms.

I’m often flustered when I perceive disrespect to our fallen by those who can’t even comprehend the difficulty of a yearlong deployment to a combat zone while losing those closest to you. But, again, how could they know? Why should they know? They shouldn’t. So, like many of you today I will find solace in the bottom of a bottle while grieving within, but it won’t prevent me from returning a smile or kind gesture as I host a family outing. And, again, like many of you I will struggle to juggle two lives, pulled in opposite directions and two extremes. But, it’s always better to educate than to judge, so that’s what I ask, and that’s what I try to do.

“For those I love I will sacrifice” – Kyle Hokenberry, injured June 15, 2011 in Haji Ramuddin, Afghanistan.

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