Around this time of year, several things seem to recur. My email inbox starts getting stuffed with stories about veterans, widows, and survivors. Many individuals and organizations start sending stories about loved ones and ancestors. Pictures, graphics, and digital copies of memorial paintings become much more prevalent on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Those who support our gallant men and women who serve or who have served add their own messages to postings calling for such love and support.
Meanwhile, stores start advertising their Memorial Day sales. Grocery stores push beer, brats, hot dogs, hamburger patties, and the like. Department stores attempt to sell grills, lawn chairs, and swimming gear. In many places, this coming weekend marks the opening of beaches and pools.
I check the condition of my flag. Our flag. The flag represents those most essential truths embedded within the natural rights. The flag symbolizes not only the US Constitution our military service members swore to support and defend against all enemies. It also symbolizes the spirit and intent behind its phrases, clauses, articles, and amendments. The best compendium of those ideas is found in the writings of John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, and John Locke. Among those are The Federalist Papers.
The flag represents those ideas so important that citizens volunteered to fight for them. They fought to their deaths for them. They paid the ultimate price so that we may enjoy those blessings of liberty.
The flag also represents love.
Flag Day is June 14th. Memorial Day is not about the flag. My attention to the flag is in reverence to those men and women. It is about my love of my country, our Constitution, my family, and those men and women.
You see, Memorial Day is not just the last Monday in May for me. It is every day. So, on the national holiday, everything intensifies. I'm not the only one who experiences this phenomenon, either.
I will admit that I am, at times, subject to minor bouts of survivor's guilt.
So, these days, I find myself brought to tears. Ask my wife, I don't cry, at least not when anybody can see.
I miss some of these heroes every day of my life.
I miss my friends. It is just that simple. We took an oath. We did our duty. We did what we knew the American people expected of us. We refused to give them any less than our all. We also gave that promise to each other. I'm still here. They are not.
None I knew would regret their sacrifice. It is sad. But, it was unfortunately a necessary reality of war. War, as horrific and repulsive as it can be, is necessary to preserving the ideals every true American hold so dear. They would not regret their sacrifice as long as they can look down from heaven and smile, knowing we are still free.
Memorial Day isn't some Hallmark holiday to celebrate beach openings, a new grill, or a day off work. It is a solemn day to remember those who gave their lives.
Please do go out and picnic or BBQ. Have some fun. Enjoy those liberties. However, please do something else. Take an hour or so. The day is 24 hours long. These men and women gave their lives. Please, give them an hour of your time in return. If you are a church-going person, go to church and do something in remembrance. Catholics light candles. Druids spill a beer near a symbolic well. If church is not your thing, please go to a cemetery. While there, find the grave of one who served our nation in war. Say hello. Say Thanks.
As much as those of us still among the living appreciate your gratitude, we'd appreciate it more if you expressed it to those who paid for your liberty with their lives.
Each year, I publish at least one essay about Memorial Day. Please read my past essays: