Over the years, the meaning of Memorial Day has shifted from its intended purpose of remembering those who died in the service of this country. When most people think of Memorial Day, they recognize it merely as a day to get off of work or school, an event for pools to open, family picnics, or big sales at the store. However, I'm confident that if asked, many people could probably tell you the true purpose of Memorial Day. But the number would be much lower if you asked the same people if they took a step back to remember the true purpose: a day of solemn remembrance of those men and women who died in the service of our country. How this has been skewed to include great deals at Wal-Mart I will never know. But just take a second to realize how fortunate we are in this nation. Not only do we have the freedoms we are all accustomed to, but we have men and women who are willing to dedicate themselves entirely to ensuring those freedoms for millions of people they donít even know. Men and women who, as John F. Kennedy once said, asked not what their country could do for them but asked what they could do for their country. Men and women like this are not new to this nation. We had them in Revolution in 1776, in 1812 against Great Britain; they were still here in 1917 World War I, 1941 for World War II, Korea in 1950, Vietnam in 1964, 1991 for operation Desert Storm, and our most recent conflict starting in 2001. There have been Americans willing die to preserve freedom for 235 years and I do not see this changing in the future. Now I am in no way glorifying death. Death is unfortunate in all its forms. I feel it would be better if people did not have to die to secure our freedom. But unfortunately it has been necessary for the 235 years this nation has existed. And after those men and women give quite literally everything they have to us here at home, it is the least we can do to have this day set aside to be sure we remember them and honor their sacrifice, the sacrifice so that you, and I, and every American can have the freedom that we do. The freedom to live our lives the way we want to live them. Even the freedom to not celebrate Memorial Day. But what kind of respect would that be? It would be doing all those fallen soldiers, their families, and those soldiers who still serve a huge disservice. And that is the exact opposite of what they deserve.
Aside from death, there is another unfortunate thing that comes with wars: politics. And they have their time and their place. But it is not here and it is not now. Regardless of the politics of the conflict, those soldiers who volunteer for the job of putting their lives on the line for each and every one of us deserve, at the very least, our support and our respect. And those that do give the ultimate sacrifice deserve to be remembered on this day, and everyday that Americans are free.
If any of you are going to a family picnic for this Memorial Day, I hope that you enjoy the company of your family and friends, but at some point, gather everyone together and have a moment of silent remembrance of our fallen soldiers. There does not have to be a large ceremony such as this at every get-together, but that moment of remembrance must be there to turn a family party into a Memorial Day celebration. A celebration of the sacrifice that was made to give people the freedom to gather and have the celebration. And I hope that any time you see Old Glory flying, you take a second to remember what it took to get it there, and realize what it takes to keep it there.