The two US holidays I have the utmost respect for are Veteran’s Day, and today – Memorial Day. As a once self-described history buff, I cannot help but treat both days with great appreciation and reverence. While especially on Memorial Day many of us – myself included – look forward to it being that unofficial start of summer, we still should take a moment to reflect on all the sacrifices those who protect our liberties and freedoms have made, currently are making, and will make in the future.
Here are two stories that signify why Memorial Day is the most emotionally charged holiday in the US – at least to me anyways.
The summary of the first article is that a 91-year-old WWII veteran was being evicted out of his own home by his daughter and son-in-law for failure to pay rent. The veteran’s granddaughter has taken his side in the issue and is helping to fight the eviction cause. The daughter had been granted power of attorney for her father many years ago and ended up signing over the house to herself, unbeknownst to the veteran. When he found out, the time has passed legally for him to reverse the process, i.e. the statute of limitations has expired. Donations have poured in across the country to help the veteran cover his expenses and keep him in his home.
What makes this story stand out for me is that here we have someone who fought for our freedoms and liberties, having going through one of the most traumatic experiences to protect others, only to return home and be struck down by an unfair and unfortunate situation. Many returning veterans deal with issues like these and others on a daily basis and it has made their transitions back to civilian life much more difficult than it needs to be.
I do think the one thing that sometimes gets lost in a holiday like Memorial Day is the equality of the individual sacrifices made by those to obtain and defend the freedom and other liberties we enjoy. The second article above highlights some of the roots of Memorial Day and how sometimes this element of our society gets lost in our modern traditions.
Reading that article helps remind me to think of the sacrifices of minorities on Memorial Day as well. Take a look at WWII (the war seemingly most often synonymous with Memorial Day) and the contributions of minorities in that conflict:
- See the Blacks (which encompasses African-Americans for the US and Blacks for the English Crown and their Allies) who did the real grunt work in WWII, often under the most segregated of conditions;
- the Asian Americans who fought under the most withering of lens where their allegiances were often questioned based on how they looked like “the enemy”;
- the Native Americans whose scouting and code breaking skills played a key and unsung role in the Allied Victory;
- and Women, both on the home front in the factories and other industries to keep the war effort going, and on the battlefield as nurses and trained pilots the equal of men as well.
Those in the know understand these things, but there is this underlying hands-off approach to really giving everyone their EQUAL due on Memorial Day that is somewhat troubling.
Does it mean we should romanticize the military uniform? No. just like other areas in life, you’ve got dishonest veterans and people who were dishonorably discharged for valid reasons. Plus there are those who profit off good people’s intentions that are associated with the military. But in this new age of hyper-sensitized and malleable patriotism, we are guilty of doing that from time to time. Does it mean we should romanticize specific wars or overemphasize the contributions of one group over another? No, but in all seriousness, many of us do.
At the end of the day we should take the time to reflect – on what everyone who has sacrificed equally to protect: our freedom and liberty. We should pay homage to both their individual sacrifices by respecting and appreciating their unique history, which involves gender, ethnicity and socioeconomics. We also should pay homage to their sacrifices collectively and take care of them as our own, as they do for us when they put themselves in harm’s way.
Have a blessed Memorial Day.