Memorial Day is not about fun, joy, or happiness. It is about meaning. It is a solemn day of remembrance and recognition.
If one had to make a case for “happy,” one could always say that everyone who is fortunate enough to live in this free (or almost-free) country is happy to live here because of the freedoms we have, whether or not there are days and times when they may want to scream because of the way certain situations are handled by our government or government agencies — the present VA healthcare scandal perhaps being the latest one.
Those who died in any of the wars to presumably preserve that freedom well know there was no happiness involved in “their” war, or in any other wars. But the good that comes out of such unhappy situations, at least as we might see it from one perspective, is that we are considered a free country. And as they say, “freedom is not free.”
It is amazing how many men and women still sign up for the opportunity to help our country stay free. Of those who have died, all did not die in battle or even on foreign soil, yet they still died while wearing the uniform, so to speak, and because in some way they believed in doing their duty for their country. They are the fallen servicemembers (not veterans) we honor on this day — not because they were all heroes, but because they were all willing to be part of the vast fellowship that stood for something they believed in.
Whether we all believe in war or not, we all do believe in freedom. And whether or not our country goes about it in the way that is best — at least to our way of understanding — we all know that there are those who stand behind the principles and values that this country holds forth as worth saving, and step up to the plate in whatever way they can to see that those principles and values never die.
Years ago, as we may remember, this day was called Decoration Day because of the graves that were decorated with flowers in remembrance of those fallen servicemembers. It has changed its official date for such recognition and its way of being “celebrated” over the years, but the core concept remains the same. War costs lives, and this official holiday is about those who went off to war and lost their lives.
We want to always remember those who put themselves in danger’s way for what they truly felt was the good of this country. Whether you are a peacenik or a warrior at heart, surely you can still appreciate the sincerity and dedication of those who served, and pause long enough — not just on Memorial Day, but any day — to remember those no longer with us because of their personal sacrifice.
Wars of times past seem so long ago that many may be all but forgotten. Yet for their families, the fallen servicemember’s picture may still be on the wall and the memories of good times past are probably still in their hearts.
For the families of those who will not be returning home this year — or of those who didn’t make it home last year or any previous year during this current war, wherever they served — no doubt they will feel the gap in the newest family photo, at their dinner table, or while watching their child play ball outside without his or her mom or dad, as it used to be. That loss is keenly felt today and will continue to be felt even when the next war comes around and today’s conflict is a thing of the past.
War is hell, we’ve all heard it said, even without knowing what such “hell” might really be. Losing a loved one to war must be like experiencing a slice of that “hell” on the most personal level. Those who have lost their life in war have already paid the ultimate price: their deeds have been done. They are now gone. Let us not belittle what they did or criticize them in any way.
We can’t unring any bells, but perhaps we can find ways to avoid all wars in the future. Maybe someday we can cut right to the chase and seek the solution we desire without going through the process of negating so many lives in the current operational mode this country has of dealing with major international threats and crises.
Someday, perhaps, Memorial Day will be a day of remembering that we were able to bypass war; that we were able to achieve our goals without a single soul losing his life. But in the meantime, we know that what is, is.
The “holiday” is now long over, but let us not forget.
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.