Memorial Day: Pasta salad, road trips and discount mattresses?

Lest we forget, Memorial Day is about remembering our fallen troops, not perfecting our baked beans recipe


By Rachel Engel
Military1 Columnist

It has become a day to acknowledge the anticipation of summer. We fire up the grill and fill the pitchers up with lemonade. The neighbors come over for a cold beer on the back deck, and conversations are full of talk of summer vacation and weekend getaways.

Did you see the great sale down at the furniture store? Washing machines 30 percent off, all weekend.

A lone U.S. Army bugler plays Taps at the conclusion of the First Annual Remembrance Ceremony in Dedication to Fallen Military Medical Personnel at Arlington National Cemetery, March 11, 2009.DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
A lone U.S. Army bugler plays Taps at the conclusion of the First Annual Remembrance Ceremony in Dedication to Fallen Military Medical Personnel at Arlington National Cemetery, March 11, 2009.DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

Kick back, not a worry in the world.

Except, there were worries in the world. There are worries in the world.

Not your worries, perhaps. But, that’s okay, they were sent to protect your freedoms, too, regardless of whether you remember or appreciate it.

They’ve fought against dictators, regimes, criminals, terrorists. They’ve set foot in every country in the world, and sailed millions of miles on the world’s oceans. They’ve spent decades in the sky, and years in space. They’ve sat in foxholes, caves, ditches, leaky tents, barracks, bunkers.

They’ve missed births, deaths, funerals, graduations. First steps, first smiles.

They’ve said, “I love you,” across thousands of miles, written the words shakily in a letter.

They’ve written wills just in case, and hugged their children extra long before boarding the bus.

They throw their fears away and live for the one beside them in battle. They accept the mission and see it through with tenacity.

They give it their all. Sometimes, they just give themselves completely.

And, when they do, we are supposed to honor them. We have the privilege of honoring them.

We are here because they are not, and this is a day for them.

Somewhere, in houses and apartments across the country, are mothers and fathers remembering their son or daughter. There are children remembering their mother. There’s a widow remembering her husband.

Thousands of men and women have given their lives in defense of America, dating back to the Revolutionary War. Back then, they fought for the idea of a country that hadn’t even been established yet. Today, they fight to maintain the ideals set forth by our founders.

This year on Memorial Day, when it seems to be about the car sales, and the perfect flavor of the hamburgers, and discussions about whether to indulge in Disneyworld or Disneyland with the kids this year, don’t let that be it. Pause before digging into the baked beans, before popping the top on another beer. Quiet the children’s laughter, and take a moment to remember that America is free because of the brave individuals who never made it home.

Memorial Day wasn’t created for barbecues and discount mattresses, even though it seems like a summer rite of passage.

It was created to honor the fallen soldiers of our wars, and we cannot forget that… or them. 

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