May 26, 2017, is Memorial Day in the United States. It’s stated purpose “is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces”. Certainly this is a noble goal.
But the question needs to be asked of the general population…”Has Memorial Day lost it’s meaning?”
What I personally see is a nation a divided in its interpretation of what Memorial Day actually is. First of all, let’s talk of those seniors who served, including those of the Greatest Generation who served in World War II.
This generation, growing up through the Depression and then standing to meet the challenges presented by Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, exemplified the very best of America. They faced the greatest threat the world has ever seen, looked it in the eye, fought back and kicked ass!
This is the generation that truly remembers what Memorial Day means.
But even though this country has been fighting wars (whether declared or undeclared) since September 11, 2001, I simply put do not see the same level of remembrance by other Americans.
2008 Bethpage Air Show phot of the Blue Angels. Photo by the author.
Yes, there are air shows (living on Long Island we have one of the best at Bethpage State Park…the Blue Angels will be there) and flag placing ceremonies at cemeteries, but Memorial Day has been bastardized into another reason for a 3-day weekend sale at the local mall and an excuse to have a barbecue as the kickoff to summer.
We remember it more for that 3-day weekend than for what those who, as Lincoln said at Gettysburg, “gave the last full measure of devotion” and that’s sad.
What can be done about it? Don’t just watch “The Longest Day” when AMC plays it this weekend. Don’t just think about…
Thank a veteran. There are fewer and fewer every year, as those who served in World War 2 pass away, like Melvin Rector. Master Sergeant Rector was a gunner and radio operator on B-17’s who had the chance to visit his old base in England for the first time in 71 years.
He did visit that base, and then did in his sleep on foreign soil.
So with Master Sergeant Rector gone, there is no less veteran to thank. Make sure you get your “thank you” in this weekend.