In recent years, maybe because social media allows one to be instantaneously connected to the masses or perhaps because Americans have a declining appreciation for history, I’ve witnessed far too many people, and a growing number of them, wish others a “Happy Memorial Day”.
Every time I hear or see that, I cringe.
There is nothing happy about the concept of Memorial Day.
For many Americans, it is a day of sadness and reflection, a day of remembrance for those who gave all.
It can be one of the most painful days of the year for them, as they wonder what could have been had their best friends not died in front of them in World War II, had their brothers not been killed in the jungles of Vietnam, or had their sons not died in Middle East.
I understand that to others the long weekend is a joyous occasion, the unofficial start to summer, and an extended respite from the daily grind of work or school. But, that shouldn’t mask the real meaning of Memorial Day.
Men and women gave their lives so that we – and others around the world – might savor these rare long weekends shared with family and friends.
So, it’s vitally important that each and every one of us take some time to honor those who fell in battle. You need not partake in a parade or attend a solemn service but you should, in your own way, quietly and genuinely reflect upon and appreciate the accomplishments and lives of our fine armed forces of wars past and present.
Since the start of the Revolutionary War, almost 1.4 million Americans have paid the price for our nation’s goals and the American Way. To put that into perspective, that’s more than the population of the entire Western New York region.
Imagine all of the homes and streets being completely devoid of people from Niagara Falls to Jamestown and all points in between and near. That haunting visual should give you a feel for the scale of sacrifice and a better understanding of the solemn nature of the day.
It should also give you ample reason to set aside some time, even a moment of silence, to appreciate the meaning of those sacrifices. Those soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen gave their lives so that others may live, for the creation and preservation of human rights here and abroad, and for the furthering of our national interests.
America, the greatest and freest nation ever conceived, would never have existed had men not fought to the death against British tyranny.
She would never have remained intact, nor would 3.5 million blacks have been freed from slavery, had the North not found it morally necessary to preserve our nation or better the human existence.
The whole modern world would have been torn asunder and many millions more innocent lives taken by evil, had we not entered the two World Wars which cost over a half-million American lives.
Communism would have gained immeasurable might and influence had we not waged a proxy war against its principle powers – China and Russia – in the Koreas.
The Vietnam War may have been the most contentious in American history. 58,000 perished while having the honor, patriotism and allegiance to stick with America, regardless of our nation’s sociopolitical divide.
The War on Terror was waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, with our men and women volunteering to fight for our security, wanting not to see a recurrence of 9/11 on our soil and ensuring those who initiated the attacks experience what their victims had. Nearly 7,000 men and women lost their lives in those theatres.
American history has long been saddled with military conflicts and occupations. Those high profile wars mentioned above are but a few of the dozens that have occurred in and out of our borders. In all of them, many died in – and sometimes later because of - combat.
All of those fallen soldiers should be recognized for giving of themselves so that America can be and will be a nation of power, honor and integrity, just as those individuals were in the moments leading up to their ultimate sacrifice. Without them, we wouldn’t be here.
So, please, memorialize them today. It’s our patriotic duty and the right thing to do.
And, please, never, ever wish anyone a “happy Memorial Day.” In a public setting, it’s not out of the question that someone in ear shot is numb, tending to a broken heart and expressing their love and respect to someone who left us far too soon in an unfathomable way. It’s definitely not a happy day for them.
From the 29 May 2017 Greater Niagara Newspapers