Memorial Day Weekend: the unofficial start to summer. As an employed adult, Memorial Day marks the start of the wonderful period from May 26 until September 1 when weekends are (hopefully) full of sunshine, trips to the beach, barbecues with friends and family, outdoor concerts and films on park lawns. It's a signal of relaxation and fun. And so it's easy, in celebration of all things warm and sunny, to forget what Memorial Day is truly about.
Memorial Day is our chance to honor those who have died in service of our country. Different from Veterans Day, which honors and thanks those who currently serve in the military, Memorial Day is a chance for remembrance and reflection. I remember Memorial Days as a kid. When I was in elementary school, I would march with my Brownie troop and, eventually, my Girl Scout troop, smiling and representing Aiken Elementary School. I'd proudly wave my flag while the crowds cheered. There was something very American about it. Full of tradition.
When I got older, I stopped marching and became part of the crowd. Both of my grandfathers served in World War II and I remember that my Grandpa Lester would climb into the wagon hitched to a truck with his elderly comrades. His little soldier's cap perched on his head, he waved as he passed us. Those were the moments that Memorial Day struck a chord of understanding. Staring at him in his uniform, I realized that he had served and made it back home. He aided the effort that then allowed me to stand at that parade and wave my flag at him. Some of the men he met abroad were not so lucky. And that's what this day is about. Remembering. Thanking.
Years later, my Grandpa Lester is no longer here. I never did get to hear much about what he did in the army, but after he passed away we did find some old photos of him from those days. Not wanting more stories to fall away unheard, I sat down with my other grandfather, Grandpa Jed, a few months ago to interview him about his life, including his experiences in the war. He told me all about being in the military police and I managed to capture it on camera so that I can pass his story on.
This Memorial Day, don't refrain from celebrating the dawn of summer. By all means! But take a moment to remember what the day stands for, to teach your children, and to honor those we have lost recently and throughout the history of the United States. It's a lesson worth learning.
Getting together for a family grill session is a Memorial Day treat. Follow these tips to season your food before you fire up the barbecue!