Today is Memorial Day. I admit that I did not know the history behind the holiday until having researched it online just now. Apparently Memorial Day has its origin in the years immediately following the Civil War — originally called Decoration Day. There are many things that can be said about the symbolism and significance of a day that honors those who served and died in the United States military. Surely, not every war or battle fought in the name of this country has been just one. Similarly, not every U.S. soldier who has died in the line of duty has conducted him or herself in honorable fashion, fit to be a representative of what is widely known, and perhaps rightly so, as the world’s preeminent armed forces. Yet the dedication and sacrifice — as it surely is a sacrifice for one to totally abandon civilian life and embark on a mission that must without question be the source of the saying “blood, sweat, and tears” — that characterize the soldier, officer, or serviceman are qualities that will never cease to be a source of inspiration for others. It is one thing to say “war sucks” and flash the peace symbol in seemingly futile defiance. It is an entirely different thing, however, to have to live life on a day-to-day basis, not knowing where the next bullet might come from or what one might quickly use for cover in the event of flying shrapnel.
So yes, today is Memorial Day and yes, “thank you” might not be a universal sentiment among those who are aware of what Memorial Day stands for. But remembrance, respect, and recognition are, I submit, indispensable ingredients of a proper Memorial Day tribute.