Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday which occurs every year on the final Monday of May.[1] Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.[2] Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.[3] It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

That is what Wiki says. Here’s what a good friend posted this morning:

“More times than I can possibly count I could have become one of the people memorialized on Memorial Day, leaving (my wife) and (my daughter) husbandless and fatherless and (my son) would have never been conceived. It would have been quite awhile after I would have died before anyone had started to worry. A person in uniform would have showed up on my wife’s doorstep with an official letter that says that I am “overdue and presumed lost” along with the people I was operating with in an undisclosed part of the world on a “mission vital to national security”.

Memorial day makes me think of my father. No he was not killed in battle although he was twice injured in France during the summer after D-Day 1944. My dad died of cancer January 2nd 1982, a few short months after I was married and thirty eight years after he was shot through the chest by a German sniper.
His exposure to war changed him. He left his family a devout Catholic and his personal casualty was his faith. He could never reconcile what he had been taught about unbelievers and access to Heaven with the sacrifices he saw in battle, and this made him question the rest of his church’s dogma as well. He wrote a long letter to his family while recovering in a Paris hospital explaining this loss of faith and was punished by them and by his church for doing so. I don’t know how much that event hurt him but at a time but when he needed support it appears that none was coming.
On the other hand ostracism by his family led him to seek out a different life – using his GI Bill benefit to attend college in a faraway (from rural Maine) land of Florida. There he met my mom and for that twist of fate I exist today. thankyouvurrrahmuch.

I sit in my comfortable chair in a big comfortable home living a life that most of the world’s population would consider wealth beyond belief. I try to honor sacrifices others have made that make this possible. But I cannot truly understand the level of sacrifice that my friend David or my dad or countless others faced every day they woke up wearing a uniform. When they woke up every day not knowing which second might be their last in this plane of existence.

I wonder what drove them to volunteer. What was it that led them to put their very existence on the line? I have often asked myself why I did not feel the same sense of duty when I was eighteen. I came of age during the post Viet Nam era of strong anti-war sentiment and that colored my thoughts about the military, but it should not have influenced a duty to serve. Apparently it did. So I sit in my comfortable chair in my big comfortable home pondering grey hairs and retirement planning while somewhere nearby someone else is hearing a story about the dad who never came back.

Lucky me.

Today I honor that sacrifice as best I can. I put up a flag not to display an arrogant patriotism, but to honor those who are lost forever. I write letters to politicians reminding them that their decisions to wage war have real consequences. I eschew the disgusting Memorial Day sales that cheapen the day to yet another excuse for excessive consumption. And I’ll try to remember that this day is not just about those who are lost forever, but also about those who are changed forever. Those veterans whose lives were altered unimaginably by what they saw, felt, and experienced.

Thank you. Thank you all, living and dead.