Memorial Day weekend. Perhaps no other weekend makes me cringe from the words I tend to hear when folks find out that I was active duty Air Force: “thank you for your service.” Its not that I find the words to be hollow – though I, in fact, do. Its that these words are for those who have served, or continue to serve with the most selfless act that can be done. Military members give up their Constitutional freedoms, so that they may protect that very same document. Military members are not governed by the Constitution of the United States, but rather by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. They choose to protect the Constitution and the very freedoms that we all enjoy. And sometimes, the ultimate price – their very lives – are what we, the citizens of this country, pay.
There’s a healthy argument to be had over the reasons behind such payments. The United States utilizes its military forces for all kinds of actions – from trying to keep the peace in a region at war, to protecting the interests of this country and its citizenry at the direction of our duly elected, representative government. Just what defines “correct, and just action” in the defense of those interests – as well as whether those interests are even correct and moral – are all worthy topics for America’s citizenry to debate. But not for this weekend.
Memorial Day is for honoring those who have paid the ultimate price while wearing the uniform. And for those who have paid the ultimate price, even as everyday citizens who had not made a military commitment towards the defense of this country. Memorial Day is for the fallen. Not the living. Its not for a debate of why precious, young lives were spent over this particular issue or region. Its for paying respect for the lives that were lost, far before the promises of old age, a life of experience, and unbound potential had been put into motion. Arguing over the merits of what the politicians and government officials decided, which placed these brave individuals’ into harm’s way is a useless manner of remembering, and pays no respect to those who sacrificed all.
Yes, Memorial Day will be filled with picnics, BBQs, and familial gatherings – as it should. But we should not spend an entire weekend without turning our focus to the endless fields of white markers. Our country’s gardens of stone. And remembering these individuals for what they put on the line, so that the rest of us may enjoy our freedoms.
Likewise, it would be remiss to not pay homage to the men, and women who died fighting for their governments’ behalf – even when they were on the other side of the battlefield. Much like our own soldiers, they were taking up arms to protect their way of life. No matter how foreign or different, we in the West may see them – they were attempting to defend their own families, lives, way of life, and governments. No matter how right or wrong we may see all of that. Just because they were on the other side of the battle, does not mean that they have not earned our respect as well. Memorial Day should be for all, not just a chosen few.
So, hopefully, all of you enjoy your Memorial Day weekend. Save your thanks towards the living, there will come other celebrations geared specifically for them. Stop for a moment and reflect on those that have fallen. if you can, take a moment out of your day, and visit one of the many Gardens of Stone around the country and the world. And thank those that have fallen for the sacrifices that they made on your behalf by remembering them, and the impact they have made on your life – small or large or somewhere in between. Spend a moment to keep their memories alive, for that which is not forgotten will never fade.