Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day isn't so Happy...

We've all seen it... Happy Memorial Day on commercials, ads, Facebook, and all social media sites as well as television. We've heard it from those around us. While I have kept my opinions quite for the most part, I am really bothered by the way so many view this Holiday weekend. It is seen as a reason to get together and party, to cook-out, to shop awesome sales, and to enjoy a nice, cold beer. I cringe every time someone calls me or sees me and says "Happy Memorial Day", then continuing about their day. I smile, holding myself back from speaking my mind and asking them if they truly understand the meaning behind this day...this weekend.

Right now I am struggling with this Memorial Day and with the meaning behind it. Memorial Day isn't about anything I mentioned in the paragraph above, but about remembering the men and women that selflessly gave their lives while fighting for our country or those that died as a direct result of injuries sustained in combat. So many lives have been lost and so many families have taken on the toll of these losses as well as the Gold Star Family title. I keep thinking about the conversations I have heard about parties and sales this weekend and just wish people would spend a little less time obsessed with that and more honoring those that have laid their lives down. I just wish everyone would take the time to honor and respect our fallen men and women, as well as their families - not focus on material things in life.

Telling a veteran or their family Happy Memorial Day isn't exactly the best thing to do. Neither will find this day to be happy. Yet, many will take the time to celebrate the lives of those they lost on this particular weekend. Our family was one of the blessed ones. Kevin had so many close calls while deployed, yet he is home with us now. Severely injured, but home. When I think about it all, I realize that a piece of him never came back home when he returned to us. That part of him will always be lost because of war. Our family as a whole has been changed and life is nothing as we planned for it to be. Memorial Day brings up the reality of what our men and women were faced with. It brings back memories of before their brother and sisters from the military paid the ultimate sacrifice in life. It leaves spouses such as myself, remember the phone calls about another soldier Killed in Action and the way it ripped through their family, the family that was patiently waiting on the homefront.

When you approach your loved ones that are or were military and have served in war, keep in mind most don't see the "happy" in Memorial Day. Many will shut down and won't have the desire to do anything or take part in the gatherings that will occur tomorrow and other holidays. Be patient and understand from their point of view. Don't become angry or upset if they don't want to take part in the festivities. Instead, just be understanding. Don't pressure them for a reason why or for things that happened while they were deployed. Allow them to have their space and whatever time they need. Remember, their emotions may be all over the place, and that is okay. If anyone deserves to do what they feel on holidays, it is those that served and the families that paid the ultimate sacrifice.

My family has forever been changed due to war... We each hold those close that selflessly gave their lives and we hold Kevin a bit closer now. We find gratitude in the fact he is still here with us, yet guilt in a way because we are one of the "lucky" families. I don't expect all or many to understand, especially if you haven't walked in our shoes.

Before you start showing appreciation to our veterans, remember that Memorial Day is NOT Veterans Day. Veterans Day is when you thank and honor all of those who served honorably in the military, during wartime or peacetime. It is intended to thank the living veterans for their service. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring those that died while fighting for our country or later as a direct result of injuries sustained in combat.

Take time to remember why Memorial Day is celebrated. Take time to explain it to your children as they think it is just a time to start going to the pool. Take time to say a prayer for those that laid their lives down and the families left behind picking up the pieces.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families of all the fallen this weekend. Words can never show the appreciation and pride I hold for all that gave their lives for each one of us. It takes a special kind of person to join the military and pay the sacrifices that so many have paid - or are willing to pay...

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