Why Is Memorial Day Important
Next Monday is officially Memorial Day, and this Friday (May 27th @ 7:00 pm) Rockwall is hosting a Memorial Day Celebration at the Harbor titled, “War Letters”. This article is the last in a 3-part Memorial Day series. So far, topics covered have been the history of the holiday, as well as why War Letters was chosen as the theme for this year’s event. The final part in the series is a personal essay of why Memorial Day is important.
As Americans, we have many holidays and observances that are dedicated to military service. We have a few that the public is less familiar with, like Armed Forces week, or Military Spouse Day, and we have others that are more famous, such as Veteran’s Day. Some are more relevant to specific generations, like V-E Day, and some are service specific, like the Marine Corps or Army Birthdays.
All of these holidays reflect an appreciation, or recognition, of military service and duty. We collectively recognize national goals attained, and display appreciation to fellow Americans that participated, joined, fought, persevered, volunteered, or served the national interests through military service. Each of them has an important place in our history and is important to our culture as a democracy. But none of them compare to the importance of the most venerable of military holidays… Memorial Day.
Memorial Day is the only national military holiday that is not focused on service to the country.
Memorial Day is only focused on those who gave their lives FOR the country.
On Veteran’s Day, you can shake the hand of a Veteran, and on November 10 you can wish a Marine Happy Birthday… and the recipients of such friendly, respectful or joyous emotions are physically there to receive them. Such interactions are important to a society that depends upon fellow citizens to serve in the defense of our constitution. There must be a perceived value, recognized by the nation at large, that such service is appreciated and deemed necessary.
American Veterans have never served a specific family, or a King, or a Dictator, or a tribe, but instead, have always taken an oath of allegiance to the defense of a set of principles. Veterans serve the American people as defenders of an ideal, led by an elected civilian at all times… and by default, serve as protectors of free people. Recognition for service within a society further enhances a willingness of those within society to serve. This is a good thing, and we need it as there are plenty of elements in the world that wish to deny Americans the ability to live by the ideals that we hold so dear. In response to a comment such as “Thank You for your service”, the Veteran can reply “You bet” or “You’re welcome”, or “Don’t mention it” and shake your hand. They are there…. right in front of you to physically reciprocate your sentiment.
Memorial Day doesn’t offer such an interaction. Instead, for these honored Veterans, the price paid was everything. The context of such sacrifice is inherently layered for us….the living For some the action was direct, and the celebration of the life lost is implicitly tangible. This is best understood by those who served with a fallen warrior, those that may have lived because of the actions taken in a moment of chaos far from home. Those that were at home and received notification that their husband, son, brother, sister, wife or mother had been killed understand this directly as well. In our history, during times of great conflicts, it was rare that such direct effects were not experienced by most American citizens. For Americans that understand this sacrifice in such a close, personal way, every day is a memorial day, as every day the memory of those lost are present.
For others, and in modern times, this direct effect is not as widespread. Though this is a good thing, it is also why Memorial Day is so important. In a speech given before the first Memorial Day was ever recognized, Abraham Lincoln most eloquently provided the context to the importance of what Memorial Day would come to encapsulate. Speaking at Gettysburg, after the bloodiest battle of the war to save the Union, he said:
“- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which
they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these
dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth
of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall
not perish from the earth.”
“We take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion..”. It is a call to action, for all citizens, Veteran and civilian alike, to honor the fallen through upholding the ultimate spirit of the principles they died to preserve.
Memorial Day is certainly a time to remember fallen heroes. It’s a day to celebrate their valor and sacrifice, and we MUST do that collectively as a society. But, it is also a day to remember that the meaning behind their sacrifice is a constant call to action, that it is an increased devotion to that cause for which they gave everything. It is vital to pass understanding to younger generations of Americans the mighty burden that citizenry entails, in the hopes of validating such a high cost paid by so few. It is in this respect that we truly honor the memory of those lives we celebrate on Memorial Day, and why it is so important.
Join us this Friday at the Harbor @ 7:00 pm for War Letters, a Memorial Day Celebration.