Monday, May 25, 2015

On This Memorial Day, I Agree With The Veteran Who Said "I'm a veteran, and I hate 'Happy Memorial Day'"

George Washington Memorial Park, Paramus, NJ
I open this post in concurrence with the following quotes from Jennie Haskamp, a Marine Corps veteran who continued to work for the Corps as a civilian after leaving active duty in 2006. They are taken from a recent Commentary in the Chicago Tribune.

"That's when it hit me. I'm angry. I've come to realize people think Memorial Day is the official start of summer. It's grilled meat, super-duper discounts, a day (or two) off work, beer, potato salad and porches draped in bunting."
 "I'm frustrated by people all over the country who view the day as anything but a day to remember our WAR DEAD. I hate hearing "Happy Memorial Day."
"It's not Veteran's Day. It's not military appreciation day. Don't thank me for my service. Please don't thank me for my service. It's take the time to pay homage to the men and women who died while wearing the cloth of this nation you're so freely enjoying today, day."
"It's the one day on the American calendar meant to exemplify what it costs to be American and to be free. . . and we've turned it into a day off work, a tent sale and a keg of beer."
"I hope you enjoy your weekend — but I hope you pause to remember, too."
I totally agree with Ms. Haskamp, for when we look to the authority of definitions, Merriam-Webster, for the definition of the word memorial, it says serving to preserve remembrance. In other words Memorial Day is a day that is set aside for us to remember our military men and women who paid the ultimate price with the voluntary giving of their lives while representing the United States of America in battle/war. Sadly, Memorial Day, like too many of our holidays (The word holiday comes from the Old English word hāligdæg (hālig "holy" + dæg "day") has become reduced to gimmicky marketing and sales days with their true meanings never being truly recognized.  

For me, I personally believe that we ought to pause from time to time to remember all of our loved ones who have passed away or transitioned from this life, as each of them have contributed in one way or another to those of us who are still alive. I often visit the grave sites of family members, friends and national heroes just to remember them and to say "Thank You" for their contribution to the world and to my life. I've been to the burial sites of notables such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Joe Louis, Malcolm X, and Paul Robeson, just to name a few and not to mention the final resting places of my many family and friends. While I more than realize that the burial grounds represent the physical earthly remains minus the spirit (the true being of the person), by visiting the sites, it is my way of preserving remembrance. In fact, depending on the design of the cemetery, I have no issue with breaking out my portable chair and sitting for a little while. I do this from time to time at my father's grave which is in the George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus, NJ, a cemetery that truly is more like a park where all of the markers are flat bronzed plaques in the ground compared with the traditional image of being surrounded by large above ground stone monuments. The experience really is like it's tag line describes as A Haven of Tranquility in a Turbulent World and a wonderful place to reflect and remember. Many find this practice strange, causing me to often question, why is it that cemeteries can draw in some people, yet repel others? Death is a part of life.

So on this Memorial Day, I too ask that you move beyond the marketing, hoopla and sound bites and seriously remember a fallen soldier or soldiers and then take it a step further and reflect upon the contribution of all of your family and friends who have passed away. Mentally and/or verbally thank them aloud for having been in your life and for their historical significance in it. Whether it was on the world-wide level such as a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or on a local level such as an immediate family member, thank them or say a prayer for their spirits and wish them continued peace in their rest. "Ashay." Something to critically think about.

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