…. what are we fighting for?
Memorial Day. Yes, the holiday is actually a “day”, not a weekend. It used to be celebrated on May 30th each year, no matter what day of the week it fell upon. But in 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act which morphed it into a three-day weekend. So now when you ask people “What is Memorial Day Weekend?” you get told it is the beginning of summer, the weekend our pool opens, the first cookout of the season or the weekend we put our boat in the water.
There was a time when we understood the true meaning of Memorial Day. I am happy to say I lived during that time. I can still muster up some remnants of it, though it is difficult to compete with the giant sales at most retail stores. They try to make it authentic by splashing the Stars and Stripes across their advertising, but let’s be honest, we’re all missing the boat.
I can’t remember the last time I saw veterans selling the poppies. When I was younger, you would see them everywhere. They were small, they were artificial, they were bright red like my mother’s lipstick. My mother would always buy one and display it on the sun visor in our car. It would stay there long after Memorial Day, fading to pink before she decided it was time to throw it away. I guess we could use that analogy to describe the demise of the holiday.
There are varying feelings about war, depending on which one occurred during your lifetime. My father and uncles all fought in World War II, the big one. They came home as heroes, welcomed with the GI Bill, college opportunities and the burgeoning of suburbia. We waved out flags proudly, saluted them and recited our Pledge of Allegiance in school each morning. We never stumbled over the words to the Star Spangled Banner.
It was different when we became involved in the Vietnam Conflict. Soldiers, many of whom had to be drafted, traveled across the world to fight without really understanding the cause. They came home to anti-war protestors who burned flags and draft cards. Many of them never recovered, physically or emotionally.
Today we have soldiers spread all over the Middle East, terrorism the target. Ask any American their opinion on today’s war efforts and you will get a different answer. Our opinions are as scattered as our armed forces. And though many of us do not support these “wars”, we do support our soldiers.
Take a minute today, in between grilling the burgers or heating up the charge cards at the sales, to reflect on what today really is all about. Say the Pledge of Allegiance to yourself, and savor the words. Sing the Star Spangled Banner or God Bless America, do it with your kids or grandkids. Fly your flags, attend a parade, salute a soldier. And please, let me know if you find anyone wearing a poppy.