Driving towards my Memorial Day Weekend destination, I pondered life, death and sacrifice.
Wikipedia says that “Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering and honoring the military personnel who perished while serving in the United States Armed Forces“. It is celebrated on the last Monday of May.
I thought of all these strangers fighting and dying for me and my country. They paid the ultimate price. Their families were torn apart just so ours could stay together. A huge amount of gratitude filled my heart and soul. These people illustrated that doing anything for love is a thing. They died for what they loved – their country.
And then we have Veterans Day, which Wikipedia explains is a federal holiday “honoring military veterans, that is, persons who have served in the United States Armed Forces.” It is celebrated on November 11th.
The reason why I shared those definitions with you is because I have met people who do not know the difference. Simply put – Memorial Day is for those who were in the military and died while on duty. Veterans Day is for those who have served, but have not died on the battlefield. There is also an Armed Forced Day, which celebrated those who are currently active duty in the military.
These three separate holidays honor seemingly the same people – members of the armed forces. However, if you look closely, they are vastly different.
Here in the U.S., we get Memorial Day off. It is our first “long” weekend (3 days) of the year. You remember, relax and live it up with your family and friends, while greeting the beginning of summer. (Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer and Labor Day closes the season.) Unless you are a federal employee, chances are you do not get Veterans Day off. You see it in the calendar, you hear about it on the radio, etc. However, the celebrations do not compare with those of Memorial Day. When it comes to the Armed Forced Day, chances are that it will come and go and you will not even know it. (I generalize.)
What does that all mean?
We often hear how we should love and appreciate people now, because we do not know when they will be gone. We are reminded to make the best of the present moment and show gratitude towards the people that matter to us. We should make them feel valued, loved and appreciated now. Today.
Have you ever heard people singing praises about someone recently deceased, when they hated their guts when that person was still alive? I agree that we need to respect those that die. But I do not agree that we can act however we want towards each other only to pretend everything is alright once they pass.
We are hardwired to honor those who are no longer with us. It does not surprise me that we cannot change that mentality, if federal holidays show us that those still alive deserve less mention.
Pondering all this made me wonder how the vets feel. Do they feel less valued that those that have fallen on the battlefield? Are they less important? Sure, they have not played the ultimate price, but often times serving has caused a tremendously negative impact on their and their families’ lives. We cannot forget that. Just because they came out alive does not mean that they are living.
Why do we not celebrate the living as much as the dead?
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