Don’t short sell those who served

For some people, Memorial Day offers a chance to reflect on the sacrifices scores of brave men and women in uniform have made for this country.

Many, however, know little of what the holiday commemorates, choosing instead to spend the day bargain shopping.

Amidst the sales and deals that the public is inundated with on this most important of holidays, a majority of Americans don’t stop and actually think about what Memorial Day is truly about.

At the conclusion of the Civil War, veteran forces in the North and South made a practice out of paying respect to fallen soldiers by decorating their graves. These “Decoration Days”, as they came to be known, were held on different days in each state, as there was no federal holiday.

Almost a century later, Congress officially enacted Memorial Day, ordering observation to be held on the last Monday of each May.

Unlike Veteran’s Day, which celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, Memorial Day is about honoring American soldiers who died during military service. Anyone who watches television or reads a newspaper in the week leading up to the holiday, however, probably thinks it’s a day to celebrate and reflect on the low prices down at the local Wal-Mart.

This country has lost touch with one of its greatest natural resources — the men and women who have given their lives serving us.

There are around 1.5 million Americans serving in the various branches of the armed forces, and every one of them puts their life in harm’s way at some point during their service.

Many people have family members who have served, maybe a grandparent in World War II or a brother in Afghanistan. While it’s nice that we observe those living and deceased two days out of the year respectively, every one of them deserves our acknowledgement as often as we can spare it.

How we might feel about the ethics or necessity of war does not matter; people in service work to protect every American, not simply liberals or conservatives.

I was discussing Memorial Day the other night with my best friend, who coincidentally just finished a six-year tour with the Navy. He said that whenever a civilian approached him or another member of his crew to give them a simple “thank you,” it put everything into perspective and made the sacrifice worth it.

I promised him that I would try to never again waste an opportunity to thank a person in uniform when I see them. Although I am somewhat timid when it comes to approaching strangers, I realized that if they can pick up a rifle to go and defend people they will never meet, I can work up the courage to thank them for doing so.

Memorial Day should be about more than shopping — it should be a day to honor those who gave everything for us. But don’t wait 364 days each year to celebrate the men and women who sacrifice to protect our way of life; next time you see one, just say “thanks.”

Alan Dennis is an communications senior and may be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

  • Alan,

    As a current U of H student, who spent 8 years serving in the United States Army, I must commend you for bringing this issue to light. I served in Iraq for a year, and lost many friends over there. Memorial Day is often misplaced by people saying “Happy Memorial Day”, when in reality a day spent in remembrance of a friends smile, a sisters humor or a son’s laughter, could never be happy to those of us who made it through the war. The death toll climbs and the numbers are shocking when you how many American lives were lost to defending the country or even the states rights. Thank you for publishing this, and informing those who may have forgot or just not known, what this day is supposed to be about.

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