When I was younger, Memorial Day was just another holiday, another day off from school or from work. It was the Indy 500 and barbeques. It’s not that I wasn’t patriotic, I was, but even though I knew that people had died for my country, the idea of a fallen hero was still an abstract. All of my uncles who served in WWII had come back, and other than them I knew very few people personally who served in any shooting war. Even in the Army I met very few combat vets, the few I did were almost all in Vietnam. Almost no one from my generation had ever been killed in combat. Then September 11th happened. Shortly after, we were at war again and shortly after that, persons from my generation and younger were making the ultimate sacrifice. I guess at that point I began to understand the true meaning of Memorial Day.
And so I suppose it is, that we don’t really understand what it is we’re celebrating, until such point as the celebration becomes second to our memories and silent reflection. Some though, have no personal connection to this holiday. It is still for them, an abstract notion of someone else’s sacrifice, something they are but vaguely aware of. Does it anger me? No, I was like them, maybe it takes knowing someone who did not come back to appreciate the day. Don’t get me wrong, barbeques are great, races are great, being with family and friends is great. A day off from work is always welcome. It’s a celebration of life that other have earned for us. Honoring our fallen countrymen, even for a moment on one day a year helps us to appreciate all we have as a free people.