In honor of today, I want to talk about the subject of Memorial Day. Okay, granted, it’s not a cheerful subject, but it’s still noteworthy to talk about.
Every year, on the last Monday of May, the United States honors its military men and women who have died in service. It is not to be confused with Veterans Day in November, which gives thanks to those who have survived and are now, evidently, veterans.
As a child, I had a vague understanding about Memorial Day: all I knew about it was that we wrote letters at school to families who have lost loved ones and had a day off for observance. I always looked forward to the three-day weekends from school, using that extra day to catch up on school work or just goof off. I never really comprehended just how important the holiday was to some people, because I didn’t have any relatives who served in the military. I never needed to attend cemetery service, nor participate in any gathering to remember those who’ve passed.
However, I have friends and acquaintances whose family members have served and died for the country. When I was in high school, I would hear, from time to time, a former student who was killed in action, and see the marquee sign display their name in commemoration. One guy’s older brother died in battle, killed with a bullet to the ribs. Soon after, the guy got a tattoo of his brother’s initials on his ribs, a touching sign of remembrance.
It is interesting that the United States has this kind of holiday, along with Veterans Day. It is about sacrifice and death, and celebrating those who have gone, but it is not tied to a specific religion. Memorial Day stemmed from the bloody years of the Civil War 150 years ago, and its subject of death and remembering has become a huge part of American nationalism. You don’t see this level of honor in other countries, like Britain or France, which are secular about military service (although they do recognize the military in their own way).
For those of you planning to attend service for loved ones lost, I give my regards. And with that, have a pleasant Memorial Day.
– The Finicky Cynic