Memorial Day in the United States is Monday. Many are enjoying friends and family during the long weekend. Merchants have sales going on. I saw some fireworks for sale in a grocery store a couple of days ago. I heard two sports radio talents talking about going to the beach, relaxing, cooking out and other activities. At least they did mention to remember those serving in the military. So, what is Memorial Day and how should we celebrate, or should we?
Memorial Day is not Veterans Day. It’s not the Fourth of July. It’s not Labor Day and other typical holidays.
Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring those who died while serving in the U.S. military. It was originally known as Decoration Day, originating years after the Civil War, which ended in 1865 and claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history. Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971. https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history
By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to the countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.
During World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict. The time of remembrance was then changed to remember American military personnel who died in all wars.
Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30 for decades until Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968, creating Memorial Day as the last Monday in May, which established Memorial Day as a federal holiday that enabled a three-day weekend for federal employees.
Service members, veterans and their families know there is a big difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. While Veterans Day, Nov. 11, is a day set aside to celebrate all veterans, Memorial Day is a somber holiday dedicated to honor military fallen, with a special focus on those killed during military service or through enemy contact. https://www.military.com/memorial-day
Both holidays often include parades, ceremonies and celebrations. But although Memorial Day also traditionally marks the beginning of summer with picnics and parties, many in the military community believe that at least a portion of it should be set aside to mourn and honor the fallen.
I want to go a litter further though. Yes, Memorial Day was established for those who bore the weight of battle to the last degree, but what about those who came back changed to the degree they felt there was no reason for them to continue living?
Don’t these military members experience a certain death, whether physical injury like loss of limb, traumatic brain injury and mental health challenges? While they may be here physically, mentally some may be elsewhere, or think there is no need to continue living – but yes, there is a need and a reason.
We owe our support and gratitude to those who served – going when and where the nation needed them.
I know the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) is doing a great work and is constantly working on behalf of our veterans. One of their studies can be found at https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/2016suicidedatareport.pdf. And, I realize the national suicide rate continues to climb with our general population. Let’s continue getting to the root cause though and never abandon our pursuit to not loose one life.
Each life is precious, deserving the best care and support possible. I recall a personal situation where one Soldier returned from combat. His mother noticed a change in behavior, how he was more quiet and secluded, as well as not sleeping well. This behavior had changed from the son she knew before deployment.
The mother notified the unit the Soldier deployed with. The unit made an appointment with the VA and he received medication. The mother called weeks later. She mentioned her son had stopped taking his medication and was missing for over a week. He was later found by law enforcement. Full military funeral honors were given to honor this fallen Solder.
There are so many factors related to the mental health of those serving in stressful situations, and encountering things the human brain has difficulty comprehending. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common term we’ve head for years now. Stress can lead to deep mental health concerns if not managed.
I personally think the “disorder” terminology should be discarded. Let’s deal with the post-traumatic stress, or even depression – helping the person with his or her individual behavior, concerns and providing all that can be provided within our medical achievements.
With proper recognition of symptoms, showing care, effective individual treatment and being a caring community, we can curtail the loss of life.
Still, may we continue remembering those who have passed from our presence – giving their all in the line-of-duty.
How do other countries remember those who died fighting for their freedoms, or who have experienced the burden of conflict? Is freedom even important that one would die trying to gain it, or keep it?
Let’s never forget those who sacrificed so much, and their families who long to celebrate with their loved one if he or she was here.
I have had the solemn honor of meeting with family members when they first learned of their military member’s death. I still see the pain and the sorrow. I tried to comfort and help families the best I could during some of their darkest moments.
I’ve had the solemn honor of rendering military honors with firing salutes, folding the U.S. flag for presentation, and presenting the flag of the United States of America to the closest next-of-kin, softly speaking these words: “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army (or Air Force) and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.
I will always remember these special moments. I have a special affection for these Families who remain to carry on the remembrance of their Soldiers.
So, Memorial Day 20l9, let’s take a few minutes to at least remember and show respect.
We can still celebrate because that is one of the reasons our brothers and sisters fought so valiantly, to their last breath, to gain and maintain these freedoms we enjoy. Let’s also include those who are still with us today, and not let them become a statistic too.
I will remember!
Blessings along the Way!