The contradiction of Memorial Day is that it occurs during the season of new life, as an occasion to mark the ultimate sacrifices of our soldiers. We’re asked to engage in solemn remembrance, while being afforded the opportunity to relax, celebrate and travel.
Some may say these approaches are at odds. Each year, there are loud calls for Americans to recall the true spirit of Memorial Day, and never allow the pomp and circumstance of a three-day weekend in late May, the barbecues and car races, to obscure whatis truly meant to be commemorated.
Forgetting the sacrifices of American soldiers should never happen. Without their bravery, the lives we lead today would not have occurred, after all. In short, without them, we wouldn’t have a Memorial Day to celebrate. What we do this weekend is due, in full part, to their protection of our country.
That’s the trade-off. Our soldiers fought and died on domestic and foreign battlefields to preserve the American way of life and extend its freedoms to others. They have made the greatest sacrifice possible, so we, this weekend in particular, don’t have to make any sacrifices at all.
We’re free to bask in the sunshine, sail on the ocean, hike the nearest mountain or kayak the nearest lake or river. As Americans, we’re given this extra day of holiday leisure to spend, or waste, as we decide, from the cherished freedoms afforded us as residents of the greatest democracy on Earth.
Yes, Memorial Day is synonymous with travel, vacationing, traffic jams on the Interstate, blue skies and yellow rays of sunlight. The days last long into the evening, creating an atmosphere of anticipation that only the dawn of summer can inspire. This holiday is the doorstep of the most perfect of seasons.
Can we be blamed for focusing more on that, rather than the roots of the occasion? Probably not, as long as these roots never wither, never disappear from memory, and we listen intently to those who remind us that this freedom to let our mind wander came with such a steep price.
Happy Memorial Day, everyone.
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