By Chuck Cusumano
For many, Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer: the last Monday in May, the weekend that pools open up for the season, the time for stores to tout their latest sales deals, the signal that school is out, and the debut of the newest blockbuster movie releases! (FYI: Top Gun:Maverick opened this past weekend!) It's a time for baseball, hotdogs, hamburgers, watermelon, picnics, and parades. You may hear, “Happy Memorial Day” as a greeting or salutation. The banks are closed. It is an official American Holiday. The highways are clogged with summer vacation RV’s, carloads of families going to relaxing or exciting destinations, and AAA starts to track the average price of gasoline for the vacation driving season. (As of 5/28/22 $4.61 nationally Is the amount you will fork over for a gallon of regular fuel! 😬)
For Gold Star Families, Memorial Day is a very different official Federal Holiday. It is a time for remembering an immediate family member who lost his or her life while in military service to our country. It is a visit to the gravesite of a military brother, son, father, sister, daughter, mother, grandparent or great-grandparent. It is when POTUS lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. It is solemn. It is heartfelt. It is painful. It is forever. It is a day; just another day, but one out of 365 days in a year that we set aside to remember those that gave EVERYTHING for our way of life! We have Veterans Day on November 11th and we have Armed Forces day in early May of each year. But Memorial Day is a different kind of day for honoring our service members: it is the day of ultimate sacrifice – for the service member, but also for their families.
So should we say, “Happy Memorial Day”? Some would struggle to say yes. However, many service members and Veterans (like myself) say – go ahead and have that picnic! Enjoy the festivities! Attend a ball game and fireworks. Celebrate the beginning of summer! Go to the beach or lake. Be with your families and friends. And enjoy the freedom, livelihood, and amazing way of life that America provides for us! It is one of the best ways to show appreciation for all that we have and for all that others gave for us. Many Americans have served in the Armed Forces, so that all of us could be served. All of us service members gave some, but Memorial Day is for the service members (and their families) that gave it ALL.
So take some time to honor and remember that what we have has been paid for by others with their lives. Maybe it is putting a flag on a military gravesite, or sending a card to a Gold Star Family, or just standing a little stiller and a little taller when the National Anthem is playing at that sporting event. But celebrating Memorial Day (in anyway you choose) is a ‘THANK YOU’ to all of those that gave so much, so we could all enjoy this America!
Serve one another. Serve your family. Serve your friends. Be of service to your community, your work, your neighborhood, and the stranger that may need a helping hand. We can all be of service!
“The Old Guard” are the Sentinels of The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They are members of the 3RD U.S. Infantry Regiment. They have served and they have guarded for every minute of every day, without exception since 1937! Never abandoning their post and never abandoning their duty. They volunteer and serve because they honor the ones that served. As Americans, we can celebrate and serve on Memorial Day by remembering that what we have has been paid for by the blood of another. This is not in any way designed to make us feel guilty, but to allow us to be grateful! To not celebrate this day would belittle the price that was paid for it.
So, Happy Memorial Day. And if you are a Gold Star Family, THANK YOU – beyond words – for what your family paid to ensure what we all enjoy.
The Sentinel's Creed: (The Old Guard)
“My dedication to this sacred duty is total and whole-hearted. In the responsibility bestowed on me never will I falter. And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection. Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements, I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability. It is he who commands the respect I protect, his bravery that made us so proud. Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day, alone in the thoughtful peace of night, this soldier will in honored glory rest under my eternal vigilance.”