This is a repost of a blog post from May 2008 as a part of a Best Of 2008 series.
Turning Our Backs on the Gold Star Families.
Most of America just doesn’t get it. In point of fact, only a select few know what it’s really about.
To most of America, Memorial Day is the beginning of summer, the start of vacations and days at the pool, of sales and parties and friends all together to kick off the biggest party of the year…summer. A time when backyard parties occur for no reason other than everyone was available, the beer is cold and the sun still shines on warm summer evenings, but to some families Memorial Day still holds true to its original intent, a day set aside to honor their loved ones - who fell in combat.
Have we ever considered what a slap in the face it is on Memorial Day to the families of those whom gave the ultimate sacrifice? To see consumerism run amuck, sales and discounts and an extra 10% to active duty military when their loved one couldn’t take advantage of any discount even if they wanted to - because their loved one is dead. Yes dead, I said it, the word that scares so many people.
“We regret to inform you that…” your son, or daughter, or husband or wife “was killed…” Have you heard those words spoke to you by the Casualty Assistance Officer when you answered your door and knew right away what the news would be? Have you America? Some of you have, in fact many of you have, as of May 22, 2008 - 4059 families have heard those words spoken to them since 2003 and yet most of America has no idea how we dishonor those who should be honored above all others. Memorial Day is not a day that should be devoted to sales and parties, eating BBQ and drinking beer. It is the one day we set aside to honor and remember the fallen. One day. Can’t we stop moving for one day and think what it is we are doing to the memory of our heroes?
Think about that for a minute corporate America and juxtapose that concept with your discounts and sales. There is no sale, no discount, and no honor you could bestow upon the families of the fallen that will in anyway make up for the price they have already paid. Can’t you take one day off to remember what it is they have paid for this country? Can’t you take one day out of the many to honor the fallen and their families instead of stabbing them in the gut by reminding them that the discount doesn’t apply to them because their service member is dead?
And what of the rest of America, why don’t we all get it? Are we so afraid of death that we try to make up for it by honoring the living?
While attending church on Sunday, I was struck by how out of place I felt. Not because I’m a heathen standing upon holy ground, but because on Memorial Day the pastor full of good intentions did exactly what so many in America do on Memorial Day, he recognized the living. When it came time to address Memorial Day he asked all active and former Military to stand, once we were all standing he asked that the congregation thank us for our service to our country, and while the applause subsided I thought, there are 4059 service members who should be the center of attention right now. We, the living have our day in November, Memorial Day is their day. Why is it so hard for America to speak of the dead and honor their service?
It is after all called Memorial Day for a reason.
They are dead, and we must honor them, not because they are dead, but because they lived, and served and protected all that we have. We must not let them be forgotten and we must not let them be replaced by a discount at the register.