Memorial Day means many things to many people. I see posts from people complaining that we shouldn’t be happy on Memorial Day, and that this day is meant to mourn those who died serving our country.
I agree that we should stop, think, pray and be eternally grateful for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. I also think we should take time to celebrate this holiday with things that make us happy, because it is the sacrifice those soldiers made that gave us the freedom to celebrate this country.
To me, Memorial Day is wrapped in memories of family, headed up by my father who, every year from the day he was discharged from his service in WWII, up until the day he retired to Florida in 1994, marched in the Winnetka, IL Memorial Day parade with the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The parade ended at the Village Green where about an hour was spent honoring those from our little village, who died in combat – starting with the Civil War. As a child, I hated standing there waiting for it to be over, so I could go home and play. But, I always stood quietly listening year after year, until the time I finally understood what it was all about. Every year during the reading of the names of the deceased, there were children playing on the swings on the Green and a spectator would walk over to the swing set and explain that the children must be quiet during this solemn time. The kids would stop playing – I’m sure wondering why.
After the honor guard paid tribute, the event was over and we all went home. The veterans would meet at Carper’s saloon – and in later years Seul’s Tavern for a few drinks, sharing of memories and possibly talking about things that today’s veterans can freely speak about, and not worry about being called “shell-shocked” or being belittled for bringing up those things that would be better bottled up inside for the rest of their lives. But, I doubt that even among comrades, they spoke of those things that might have helped them get through the memories that were buried with those who never returned.
Mid-afternoon, all returned home for cook-outs, picnics and family together time. It was a wonderful way to support my father, and all those who returned home to start families that would live to tell their stories long after the parents were gone, new wars became old, over and over again.
Memorial Day is a day of solemnity, similar to a funeral. Do we not gather after a funeral and celebrate, remember, laugh, cry and love? Our loved ones expect it. Those who died for us expect it.
On Memorial Day I celebrate my father, now gone, those he went to war with who never returned home, and I celebrate this United States of America. As I celebrate, I cry, laugh, reflect and express gratitude for every single person who died to make me free. I believe that is okay to do.