Why we should not say, ‘Happy Memorial Day’
by Thomas DelMundo
Memorial Day grew out of the American Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in US history. More Americans died in the Civil War than in all other American wars combined, including the undeclared wars of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. To put things into perspective, more soldiers died during a single day during the Civil War than in all 13 years of combat in Afghanistan.
The war was still raging 150 years ago, when women started decorating graves of their war dead with blooming spring flowers. In the South it was called Confederate Memorial Day and in the North, Declaration Day. It was observed by various States on various days throughout spring; at first by widows and veterans of the Civil War and as time passed, by the nation at large as writ large in the closing lines of the Gettysburg Address,
“…THAT WE HERE HIGHLY RESOLVE THAT THESE DEAD SHALL NOT HAVE DIED IN VAIN~THAT THIS NATION UNDER GOD SHALL HAVE A NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM~AND THAT GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE BY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE SHALL NOT PERISH FROM THE EARTH.”
In 1967, President LBJ officially recognized May 30th, as “Memorial Day”. The next year Congress designated the last Monday of May as Memorial Day as part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act  which created the original five “Long Weekend” holidays including Labor Day and Veterans Day.
And here is where it bothers many traditionalist and veterans. The general public and media have gradually changed or lost the meaning of what was once a solemn remembrance of war dead; and its become something far more trivial. It is celebrated as the ‘Start of Summer’ with it’s various Summer Sales and marketing promotions.
While we are encouraged to fly US flags on Memorial day, the holiday is often misattributed as a recognition of ‘those who serve(d)’ but that should be celebrated on Armed Forces Day (the 3rd Satrday in May) or Veterans Day (November 11). And while we should always value those who serve, their daily sacrifices and willingness to die for their country are not synonymous with those that made the Ultimate Sacrifice and did.
So please don’t tell me ‘Happy Memorial Day’. While yes, we should all be happy that we live free country (and by far, freer than most of the rest of the world AND in the history of the world), it is a country born out of the deaths of many of its young. I would prefer you greeted me with “Have a Good Memorial Day” or better yet “Have a Worthy Memorial Day”.
And as you plan your long weekend or fire up that grill, remember the final words of Capt. Miller in Saving Private Ryan, “Earn this…”
Photo link: http://darkroom.baltimoresun.com/2012/05/remembering-the-fallen-scenes-from-the-memorial-day-weekend/