So Memorial Day weekend is just about upon us, which means one thing: the proliferation of Memorial Day memes in my Facebook feed that waver back and forth between letting me know the differences between this holiday and Veterans Day, and letting me know that no fun is to be had this weekend.
And like most memes, they never seem to care if they’re trivializing a private and solemn moment to “make a statement.”
Yes, I mourn for the friends I made who will never come home because they were killed in action. And yes, I too get annoyed and frustrated by advertisements for Memorial Day sales and the like.
But here’s the bottom line up front: Memorial Day isn’t about us telling everyone to shut up and be dour. It’s about actually living, loving, and appreciating the world that we have been graciously allowed to live in, for those who cannot.
It is NOT about mil-splaining to civilians the difference between Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Armed Forces Day.
For all the talk out there of the civilian-military divide, there seems to be a disconnect between actually working to fix the problem and just kvetching about it. Those who are most commonly posting memes letting everyone know that no one will be closer to them than those who bled with them are usually also those responsible for a plethora of memes shaming civilians who say, “Thank you” to a service member on Memorial Day.
Knock that off, right now.
These types of memes and accompanying statements do two things: one, they cut short and stifle a genuine attempt of a well-meaning civilian to say thanks for what we do. They may not know the significance of the day to us, that it brings back memories that are painful, that we cringe when we hear someone say, “Happy Memorial Day,” that our thoughts are somewhere else; what they do know is that it is a day that is important to the military. And they are seeking in some way to convey their appreciation.
So instead of immediately responding with, “This day isn’t about me, it’s about those who died, how dare you, etc,” just say, “Thank you for your support.” And then talk to them, open a conversation; at some point in there, you might just find a genuine connection with that person, where you can tell them about someone who was close to you who is no longer present. This will be far more meaningful than replying with a trope.
Secondly, when you advertise to everyone that this day isn’t about you, you’re actually making that day about you. You are drawing attention back to your own service. Which is literally what you just said today was not about.
I guarantee you that if you were to bring back a fallen service member and ask them if they weren’t just enraged at how people say, “Thank you for your service,” on Memorial Day, they would look at you in confusion and say, “Why the hell do you care about that? There is life to be lived.”
After all, Abraham Lincoln did not say in his Gettysburg Address, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to correcting anyone who gets the meaning of Memorial Day wrong.” What he said was, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”
And what is that unfinished work?
It is living. It is experiencing life. It is appreciating our freedom from tyranny, from slavery, from oppression, from war, from destruction. It is appreciating our families, our friends, the simple joys that make up every new day.
Please savor life this Memorial Day; those who died through no choice of their own would wish that you did so.
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