This is probably going to get me some hate mail, but here it is: Americans commemorate Memorial Day poorly and wrongly. Let’s go with poorly first. In our consumer society, we’re all about “getting away for the weekend” (which in my area means hours of maddening traffic to get to an overcrowded, overpriced, overeverything beach with no ridable waves), the sales, the grill, etc. Even — and I say this with trepidation, being a motorcycle owner and a veteran — Rolling Thunder has gotten out of hand. Seriously, upwards of 150,000 motorcycles bearing down on the Pentagon? With all the chaos, the rush, the spending, the grilling, the eating, what the hell does Memorial Day even mean? Other than a day off from work.
That’s the poorly part. But too many people seem to not even know why we have a day called Memorial Day. And I know people mean well, especially the talkers on the radio, but Memorial Day is not a “Thank you for your service to our country” holiday. That’s Veterans Day. It’s not “tie a yellow ribbon” day, either. So, please, don’t come up to me and say “Hey, thank you for your service.”
Several years ago, I spent about a week in Israel, and learned an awful lot about the Israeli psyche and culture — both good and bad. But one thing they understand is the concept of Memorial Day:
“Yom Hazikaron is the national remembrance day observed in Israel for those who fell since 1860, when Jews were first allowed to live in Israel outside of Jerusalem’s Old City walls. National memorial services are held in the presence of Israel’s top leadership and military personnel. The day opens with a siren the preceding evening at 20:00 (8:00 pm). The siren is heard all over the country and lasts for one minute, during which Israelis stop everything (including driving, which stops highways) and stand in silence, commemorating the fallen and showing respect.”
Memorial Day is a commemoration for those who died in the service of this country. Period. Yes, all gave some, but this day is for those some who gave all, men like Capt. Jim Thorp, Sgt. Aaron Pack, and Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Murphy.
On Monday, take the time to stop what you’re doing, stand in silence for a moment, and pay your respects.