The meaning of Memorial Day: One veteran’s perspective

Posted at 7:17 PM on May 28, 2017



I caught my self the other day, replying to someone, as we wished each other a “Happy Memorial Day.” I even said out loud, “Wait, is that right? Is it truly happy?” After thinking about this for some time I realized it has become cliché when we wish each other a “Happy Memorial Day.” While looking forward to the three-day weekend and hitting the lake or grilling out is perfectly normal, I wonder if the true meaning of Memorial Day is becoming lost.

With its origins stemming from “Remembrance Day” after the Civil War to then being changed to a nationally recognized federal holiday in 1971 (and start of the three-day weekend), it is interesting to notice the evolution of the day and the evolution of the meaning. Only after World War II did the day really take on a solemn meaning to millions upon millions of Americans who were all directly impacted by the loss of a loved one or neighbor.

Every day we lose more and more veterans of that Greatest Generation, as well as those who have memory of the way all Americans were tied together by the fates of our brave military men and women who served then and who still serve today. I know the reason I served was to venerate my heroes. My dad, my grandfather, and my uncles on both sides served, and many served in horrific combat operations that took them to places like Normandy, Bastogne, Germany and the Pacific.

In fact, when I think of the true meaning of Memorial Day, I think of my great-grandmother, who we called “Ma Grace.” She was the sweetest woman I ever knew. Both of her sons made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II. I remember someone saying she was devastated, and was never the same afterward. Who could blame her, right?

So this Memorial Day I think of my two great-uncles even though I never knew them. I think of Ma Grace, who was always so loving and kind, and I keep those memories close. I think, every day of her life must have been “Memorial Day” or “Remembrance Day.” I only knew these things about her after I was much older and she was gone. I didn’t really get it then like I do every time I meet a Gold Star Family member, when I give them a hug and tell them, “We love you, and we won’t forget the sacrifice …”

So I offer some friendly advice to anyone who is uncertain about what to do or tell your kids on Memorial Day. You can do whatever you want. Gather with family and friends, grill out, hit the lake, and enjoy the freedoms that are provided to us by the courage, determination and sacrifice of people you may know and love or those you’ve never met. But do the right thing now and forever: Remember. Just remember the reason for the day. Please don’t thank us who are living for our service. Instead thank my two great-uncles who never came home. Thank a Gold Star Family if you can find one. Because, truly, if we fail to remember, we will lose an important trait that all Americans should forever honor.

Dale Beatty is the co-founder of Purple Heart Homes.

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