While I was walking out of the National Memorial Day Concert there was a feeling of both jubilation and pride at both having served and being an American, but also sadness… deep sadness. One of my friends who had never served turned to me and said, “This was kind of a sad concert”. I looked at her, shrugged, and replied, “That’s probably because the concert was about men and women dying.”
Now here’s the thing. My friend isn’t some heartless civilian who could give two shits less about those in uniform or those who have served. She puts me to shame with everything that she does to give and assist our community. She was merely expressing a thought that was on my mind as well.
I had come to Capitol Hill for a concert. You know, bands, songs, and dancing. What I got were monologues of personal loss, being wounded in combat, and remembrances for those who never came back from war, all set to a background of music.
If you’ve seen combat, odds are you have lost someone dear to you. Over time we stop wearing the memorial metal bracelet with our comrade’s name and date of death, we put to the side or replace the photos of them. It isn’t that we want to forget them. We know that’s impossible. It’s that the pain of their loss is still with us. It’s the pain, not the memory of them that we are trying to avoid.
Hell, we even can’t bring ourselves to say “die” or “dead”. We say “those who never returned”, “in Fiddler's Green”, “those who never saw home again”.
The pain of our loss is very real, but so is the frustration that we feel at the lack of respect, the lack of caring for the honored dead by those who have never served. However, their actions, their belief that this is only a time for barbeques and sales is no more amazing than flies around a molasses barrel. The real scalawags who obfuscate Memorial Day is us, you and me. I might be the worst of the lot. Sure, I’ll go to Memorial Day ceremonies. Hell, I’ve even lead Memorial Day ceremonies when I was Commander of my VFW Post. But the reality is, after I spent my hour at the ceremony, after I put up my Facebook picture and status to remind everyone that Memorial Day is about the brave men and women who died in combat, I happily go off to a barbeque hosted by my civilian friends and enjoy the rest of the day.
Sure my friends who I have lost are on my mind, but that’s the one place where they don’t do any good. I know that they died, but nobody at the barbeque knows them.
So what are we to do? Should veterans boycott barbeques, swimming pools, and sales on Memorial Day? Should we wear black on Memorial Day to honor our fallen brothers and sisters? I don’t know. I wish that I had an answer.
Which is why I’m hoping that those of you who read this will write what you do to honor those you lost during Memorial Day in the comments below.
What I do know is that there are two names that I will be thinking of on Memorial Day; Larson and Rivadeniera.