If you’ve ever wondered why we celebrate Memorial Day, or if you’ve gotten it confused with Veterans Day, you’re not alone. Many people aren’t quite sure about the difference between these two days and therefore are also not quite sure why we take the time every year to hold special celebrations on both days. In Olive Branch and elsewhere in the U.S., everyone will have a long weekend which includes the last Monday of May to remember all those men and women who died in the service of their country, or who died as a result of wounds sustained during that service. For professionals involved in senior home care, you may actually know someone who participated in a conflict and survived to tell about it. For those who did not survive, we all pause from our daily lives on Memorial Day to express our gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice which they made.
Why is it worth it?
Remember the reason for this holiday – to honor those who gave their lives for this country. Is it too much to ask that we take a single day to show our appreciation when those we are honoring gave their entire lives up? Most of the men and women who have died in wars fought by the U.S. were in the prime of their lives, young adults who had a great deal to look forward to, and who had not yet enjoyed most of the really important aspects of adulthood, i.e. lasting relationships, careers, travel, and any number of experiences yet to come. In most of the wars fought by this country, many of the young soldiers who died have been in their late teens or early 20’s, and some had never been out of their home town. They had everything to live for, but they sacrificed all that to ensure that the American way of life could continue for the rest of us.
Evolution of Memorial Day
Memorial Day didn’t always have its present meaning. When it was originally established, it was intended to honor only those soldiers killed during the Civil War, and that amounted to some 620,000 individuals, so it was a significant remembrance. Three years after the war ended, a former Union general named John A. Logan organized a day of national remembrance on May 30th for those who had died in the war, and it became a recognized holiday shortly thereafter. This formalized the unofficial remembrances people had been expressing on their own, simply because so many families had been touched by the loss of family members.
During World War I, the practice of remembrance was extended to include those soldiers who had passed during all wars fought by the U.S., and at that point, the holiday took on its present form. That first World War went on to claim the lives of about 120,000 American soldiers, another 425,000 were lost in World War II and another 95,000 during the Vietnam War. If you’ve been counting, you’ll know that well over 1,000,000 soldiers in total have made the supreme sacrifice for their country in order to maintain the American way of life. When you consider that the U.S. now has a population of 328 million people, one million may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that when these wars were fought, our country had a much smaller population.
What about soldiers who have survived the wars we’ve fought? A great many soldiers who have been exposed to the horrors of war have never been the same afterward. There are situations and scenes encountered during the heat of battle which is so intense that it overwhelms the human capacity for emotion, and causes a disturbance that sometimes never heals. Some survivors of intense combat have never recovered from the trauma which they were subjected to on the battlefield, and these individuals are deserving of our adulation and remembrance as well. It’s no exaggeration to say that some of these reluctant heroes had some part of them die in battle, and could never live normal lives thereafter.
The brighter side of Memorial Day
It can be a fairly gloomy prospect if you really think about the whole reason we celebrate this holiday, but it’s not meant to be that way. We are all asked to celebrate those fallen soldiers, not to feel miserable about the idea. So when you’re sitting outside this Memorial Day and enjoying a beer and some grilled hotdogs and hamburgers, take a moment to thank the individuals who made this day possible, and think fondly of them. Plant an American flag on your lawn or unfurl your flag on the porch. Even if it’s just for a few moments, give a nod to the young men and women who never had the chance for celebrations like this, but who are remembered indefinitely for what they accomplished.