I don’t like Memorial Day.
Don’t get me wrong, I respect it. I think we need it, but I still hate it. I even wish on some level that we didn’t need such a day in our holiday schedule, but we do and so we have it.
You see, the reason I don’t like Memorial Day is because I feel it’s impossible to like a day that remembers the fallen, those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. It’s too solemn for me to “like.”
Days like this are especially poignant at this point in history.
You see, when I served, we’d enjoyed decades of relative peace. I enlisted shortly after the Gulf War, an engagement that added remarkably few to the roles of the dead. While there were things going on during my time–Somalia and Bosnia, to be specific–I was never called upon to go to those places. The same is true of many of the people who served around that same time in all branches of service.
I got out of the Navy in 1996. It was just five years later when everything changed.
From the moment the first plane hit the World Trade Center, war was inevitable. You don’t get to kill more than 3,000 civilians on American soil and punch our military in the mouth without some repercussions falling down on someone. Turning the other cheek may have its place, but you can’t do it after something like that.
So, we went to war.
The generation of men and women who came after me went to war.
Far too many never came home.
For me, I don’t like Memorial Day. I think of all those who never came home, most of whom I had no connection to whatsoever. I think of my children who may be called to serve and make that same sacrifice. It’s necessary, but never easy.
As someone who served during peacetime, I feel very odd about my veteran status. Far too many who came after me saw more time in combat than I could imagine while the closest thing to a warzone I saw was downtown Chicago. I mean, close, but not really.
Invariably, someone will thank me for my service on a day like today, and I invariably shudder inside. Sure, I served, but so what? This day isn’t for me and people like me, nor is it for the people who came home from all those wars.
No, it’s for the tens of thousands of American men and women who never did.
We, as a nation, owe them far more than we can ever repay. We owe it to them to hold onto our freedoms, the freedoms they fought and died for. We owe it to them to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And yes, that means we fight political fights for things like gun rights and free speech because we owe it to them to defend those rights with every fiber of our being.
They fought and died to keep our nation free from foreign powers who sought to infringe on our national interests. The very least we can do is keep it a nation worth defending.