When I was a child, I thought I knew the significance of Memorial Day.
Honoring dead people.
Because Mom was a first-generation American, with parents from Germany, she faithfully carried on the tradition of visiting the grave sites of family who’d passed on. Not just those who died in war.
Cemeteries creeped me out. Little flags placed on the graves of those who’d died in battle. I had visions of wounded men with missing parts reaching up through the dirt to grab me.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve appreciated the value of remembering those who’ve fought to protect our freedoms, homes and lives.
I’ve had relatives die on battlefields in Europe.
I’ve had friends die in the rice paddies of southeast Asia.
I’ve had children of dear friends die in the war on terrorism that seems to have no end.
All served with a heart to preserve something bigger than themselves. Remembering them is right. Good.
Not all are gone. We’ve got veterans around us from wars who need to be appreciated. Need to be seen as valuable. They’ve given us a gift we rarely fully appreciate.
Problem is war makes people uncomfortable. In our culture we don’t deal well with death or what has caused it. Those who come back injured, wounded inside and out, are reminders of things over which we have no control. Things in which most of us have not participated.
Most of us haven’t been blown up or injured by an IED. We haven’t watched comrades, blown up beside us. We’ve not awakened hearing gunfire and bombs around us to the point that even a car backfiring takes us back to battle.
So Memorial Day becomes a huge sales event. It’s the kickoff for summer recreation. Vacations. School being out.
Making time to remember all those who’ve sacrificed their lives for our comfort and thanking God for what they’ve done takes a backseat to grilling a side of beef over charcoal.
I’m bothered by this. By the token celebration of a day when I’ve seen so many veterans ignored. So many who feel invisible. They didn’t ask for war. But they engaged in it. Not for themselves.
For us. Family. Friends.
I don’t know that I can do much to change any of this. But it’s made me committed to saying “Thank you” anytime I see someone in uniform. A couple of words from a stranger won’t change their lives. Won’t really impact them much at all.
But it will be an acknowledgement that they’ve been seen. Identified as one of the brave ones.
They’re not invisible.
I’m not saying do away with barbecues and celebrations of summer. Give me a juicy hamburger and I’m a happy camper.
I want to be more purposeful to see and thank those who’ve fought for me. To remember those who died so I can live in America with rights I didn’t have to fight for.
Be more diligent to pray to God for those families who’ve given up their husbands, wives, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers for people who will never know them.
Remembering that this day isn’t for my comfort.