The unofficial start of the summer season suffers from a sense of duality that often triggers a few flared tempers when one side receives more attention than the other.
This weekend marks that time when people have their heads deep in plans of how the family will spend during extended weekends, or week-long vacations away from home. Itineraries are plotted, the mini-van is checked and distant friends synchronize watches for an agreed rendezvous. Or, the next best thing has to be the backyard cook outs.
Conversations are naturally raised upon where to go, what to bring and what we can all expect to eat at the annual cook out. We all have a friend or family member whose home is the absolute place to be for the best food — unless you’re that person. But, the common denominator circulates around hamburgers, hotdogs and desserts.
But, that’s one side of the coin.
Of course, we’re talking about Memorial Day. And, here lies the stark contrast between the scene above and the name of the day. It’s a national holiday designated to honor those who lost their lives defending our country. More than two centuries worth of heroes and the wars that helped define their actions. We decorate their graves. We speak their names. It should go without explanation, but seldom does the weekend go by without such a reminder. Somewhere, someone is reading this and nodding his or her head. And, that person is absolutely correct.
Both sides are correct.
As old as this country is, Memorial Day is not as old, nor was it as universally utilized for any other war than the Civil War. Depending on who you ask, and a fair majority seems to agree, Memorial Day started within the former Confederate States as Decoration Day.
It differs from community to community, but commonly the last Sunday in May was set aside to decorate the graves of kin who died at war. Flowers, bunting, personal artifacts adorned gravestones to remember. The Civil War tore families apart, sometimes pitting brothers against one another on the bloodiest of battlefields. Wounds ran deep among those who survived, and a day was established to help them heal. Part of that effort involved the community to gather together, to feast and join in on games, dances and more merriment. Because merriment was needed. By World War II, Decoration Day became Memorial Day, and it wasn’t adopted as a national holiday until 1967.
The discussion over cook outs and vacations should not be met with indignant words to force reflection upon our war dead. Those who died for our country, died to support our way of life. They died for our freedom. And, yes, that does need to be remembered. But, don’t forget to have a hamburger, or a hotdog. Grab a beer, lift it up and remember those who can’t be here to do the same.
Because, if they could, they would join you.