Memorial Day- Solemn, Happy, or Both?

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Christian Jacobs hugs the headstone of his father U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Christopher Jacobs as mother Brittany, wipes away a tear in Arlington National Cemetery
Christian Jacobs hugs the headstone of his father U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Christopher Jacobs as mother Brittany, wipes away a tear in Arlington National Cemetery

A friend recently posted this iconic 2007 photo of Christian Golczynski:

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His father, Marine Staff Sgt. Marc Golczynski, was shot and killed while on patrol during his second tour in Iraq. This photo is all over the internet and is heartbreaking because of the 8 year old’s strength in holding back tears during a formal ceremony honoring his father who is no longer with him.

This is Christian a year ago:

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Bookworm writes:

When my teenage son realized that Monday isn’t just a school holiday but is, in fact, a national holiday honoring the men and women who have died serving our country, he made an interesting comment about those who died. “It’s hard to appreciate that they’re real people because you never know who they are.”

Think about that: Despite the fact that our country has been actively at war for three-quarters of his life, my son has never known someone who died while fighting on America’s behalf, nor has he ever met someone who lost a loved one to war.

It looks as though only around 7.3% of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives.

As of 2014, the VA estimates there were 22 million military veterans in the U.S. population. If you add their figures on veterans to the active personnel numbers mentioned above, 7.3 percent of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives.

WaPo:

Unlike in World War II, when the draft meant that nearly everyone had family members and friends risking their lives, the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan have been waged by 2.5 million volunteers — less than 1 percent of the U.S. population.

March 9, 2007 Gold Star Dad Mark Crowley, center, hugs a supporter [*ahem*] after a rally to support U.S. troops. Wearing a t-shirt with an image of his son, killed while serving in Iraq, Crowley accepts dozens of flags to bring with him to Washington D.C. (Spencer Weiner / LAT)March 9, 2007 – Gold Star Dad Mark Crowley, center, hugs wordsmith after a rally to support U.S. troops. Wearing a t-shirt with an image of his son, killed while serving in Iraq, Crowley accepts dozens of flags to bring with him to Washington D.C. (Spencer Weiner / LAT)

I tried to enlist in 2007/8, but failed. Although I grew up a military brat, have met or corresponded with service members and Gold Star parents, I myself have not had a close personal friend who enlisted and who was subsequently killed while in theater. Most Americans seem to lack that personal connection; and live detached from the recent conflicts our military is still engaged in.

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This was an op-ed published in WaPo last year, written by Jennie Haskamp, a Marine veteran:

Wednesday night, sitting in a pizza joint in the Bronx, watching the world go by, I was upset and couldn’t put my finger on why.

A friend said “Hey! Do you want to go to Fleet Week? It’s this weekend here in the city.”

What? No? Absolutely not. I don’t want to be in the midst of tens of thousands of people clamoring for a chance to look at a static display of Marine Corps and Navy equipment. I don’t want to see Marines and sailors dressed up, paraded around for community relations and recruiting purposes. I don’t want to watch any parades.

As I said it (barked it, really), my friend’s eyes widened and I recognized the frustration in my tone. I didn’t know why I was upset, at first. I paused, and while I was sitting there contemplating my outburst, I heard a commercial on the radio screaming through the tinny speakers.

“Beaches, beats and BBQs!” it said. “We’re your Memorial Day station with everything you need to kick off the summer in style!”

That’s when it hit me. I’m angry. I’ve come to realize people think Memorial Day is the official start of summer. It’s grilled meat, super-duper discounts, a day (or two) off work, beer, potato salad and porches draped in bunting.

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A friend reminded me that plenty of people use the weekend the way it was designed: to pause and remember the men and women who paid the price of our freedom, and then go on about enjoying those freedoms.

But I argue not enough people use it that way. Not enough people pause. Not enough people remember.

I’m frustrated by people all over the country who view the day as anything but a day to remember our WAR DEAD. I hate hearing “Happy Memorial Day.”

It’s not Veterans Day. It’s not military appreciation day. Don’t thank me for my service. Please don’t thank me for my service. It’s take the time to pay homage to the men and women who died while wearing the cloth of this nation you’re so freely enjoying today, day.

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So yeah. I’m frustrated by Memorial Day. And I’m angry about apathy.

I want to see people besides the small percentage of us who are veterans, know veterans, love veterans or lost veterans, understand what the day is about. It’s the one day on the American calendar meant to exemplify what it costs to be American and to be free… and we’ve turned it into a day off work, a tent sale and a keg of beer.

I’ve never perceived Memorial Day as “happy” or “celebratory”, although one might look at the occasion as a time to honor those who sacrificed by celebrating the life their sacrifices have afforded us. We are able to enjoy barbecues with friends and families and go to the mall for those Memorial Day sales…because of them. We can have the luxury of a 3-day weekend at the beach because of the beach they stormed 72 years ago.

Is it too much to ask all Americans to take a brief moment (let alone once a year) to really think about the service and sacrifices of so many, if nothing else? And the families who they left behind?

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To truly feel the personal gratitude owed to each and every soldier who gave the ultimate?

Cpl. Kareem R. Kahn.  Photos of the four Soldiers to be remembered at Friday's memorial ceremony on Fort Lewis, as released by 1st Bn., 23rd Infantry Division, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team):Cpl. Kareem R. Kahn. Photos of the four Soldiers to be remembered at Friday's memorial
ceremony on Fort Lewis, as released by 1st Bn., 23rd Infantry Division, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team)

 
I contacted Cpl. Khan’s mother, via FB, back when Colin Powell gave mention to his name. We’ve been FB “friends” since. Absolutely a wonderful, patriotic, Muslim family.

When I look at this particular photo, I find it amusing that the Iraqi boy Kareem is holding hands with is sporting a shirt with the image of Mohammad. There was a time when such issues weren’t an issue.

These soldiers have names. They have families. They had dreams. They are real people.

Please take the time to honor them….

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…As you have a solemn or happy Memorial Day.

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Taking a minute: Stephanie Montgomery traveled from Atlanta, Georgia to spend some time at the grave of her brother Sargent Thaddeus Montgomery at Arlington National Cemetery

Here is a short collection of photos I find moving:

8 Responses to “Memorial Day- Solemn, Happy, or Both?”

  1. 1

    another vet

    Excellent thread that brings up some good points and causes one to reflect. Once again, unlike the past, the number of flags being flown seemed to be minimal in my neck of the woods. Sadly, Memorial Day is viewed by most as the start of summer, a time for backyard festivities, and of course a three day weekend. My nephew told of how in his social studies class last year when the subject was 9/11, the overwhelming majority of the kids in the class had no idea what it was about nor did they care. It almost brought him to tears. Sorry to say, that is a direct reflection on their parents and the time we live in. People like that could care less about the sacrifices others made so they can enjoy their three day weekend and backyard festivities. Given the low percentage of people who actually serve as well as those who at least support those who do, the trend is likely to not get any better.

  2. 2

    David

    @another vet –

    Your observation about fewer flags, we’ve seen that here over the past 2-3 years now. The few that are still flying are those that have flown long before September 11th. Over at my parents’ home, they’ve had those little flags since the mid-1990s. At my house, we have those little flags as well. On the next street over, there’s one vet who flies the American flag plus those of each service branch and the Navy SEAL flag each on their own poles.

    @Wordsmith –

    Very nice post. Having grown up a military brat as well, the one thing my dad said it was not necessary for me to enter military service. He said he seen enough, done enough for the both of us. When I enlisted, the one who gave me hell was my mom. Soon as she had her say, she was okay – just for me to do my best.

    Both of my parents were of the belief not everyone is suited for military life. I believe that myself. I wouldn’t want my daughters to serve, not because of who is or who is not president, etc., but that my dad and I have done enough, seen enough. When someone who hasn’t served (or seen combat) asks me what is the hardest part, I said it is living with the knowledge of having killed. Sure, they’re the bad guys and wouldn’t hesitate to kill you in a heartbeat. I don’t loose any sleep or waking moments over it, or stress over it. But, it sits in the corner of my mind.

    And, standing at graveside, I’ve done my share for a couple of my teammates. It is not the easiest of moments. When you see how hard it is on the little ones, you’d rather be somewhere else, anywhere else. In those moments, heroism, sacrifice, or duty mean absolutely nothing. In remembering, we remember them as individuals who made America.

  3. 3

    Richard Wheeler

    @David: Great Post—I saw many flags flying yesterday—when I could I stopped and thanked the homeowner and chatted for awhile,

    Semper Fi

  4. 4

    Skookum

    Yes, we should remember the fallen, but we have a more pressing problem: the rate of suicide among our young vets.

    They are facing the horrors of wars that seem more political than strategic and the realization that so many died and were maimed to score political points for REMFs in DC.

    If you meet these young guys, don’t just thank them for their service, talk to them as a friend, take them fishing or golfing or whatever the F/// you do to enjoy the peace and tranquility they fought to provide. This is a national disgrace and if the VA and our criminal politicians won’t help, it becomes our responsibility to help these lost people. I don’t have the answers, but I am going to try and help at every opportunity. Just maybe a kind word or a smile will be enough to help one more warrior face tomorrow.

    WWII vets faced horrors, but their politicians didn’t fail them. It’s true many of them used alcohol to cope. I know this from my personal experience. My own father never mentioned the war until i enlisted and then he told me about Tarawa. He and millions like him could cope because they didn’t feel betrayed. I can’t be sure, but I believe this is the reason so many are committing suicide. They see their sacrifices and the sacrifices of their buddies as a terrible waste, but it was these sacrifices that keeps our enemies abroad and peace at home.

    For years, I thought the WWII generation was the highpoint of America’s best, but not anymore, these new vets have taken this title in my opinion. May God bless them, but we better help them.

  5. 5

    Richard Wheeler

    @Skookum: Absolutely—living next to Camp Pendleton I talk to and counsel young Marines most every day—they are fine young men and women–3-4-5 tours to Iraq and Afghanistan–unbelievable fortitude–lets help them whenever we can–thank you Skooks.

    Semper Fi

  6. 6

    another vet

    @Skookum: You bring up excellent points. I know of at least two people I served with on OIF who committed suicide. Both were senior people. The young people who volunteered to serve did so knowing they were not going to have the backing of a number of our politicians and a good chunk of the public. Despite that, they still did so knowing the job had to get done and the backstabbers be damned. While the bulk of their generation doesn’t have a clue, the ones who put it all on the line really are another “Greatest Generation”.

  7. 7

    Skookum

    This is from the heart, the right horse can help.

    I have met a couple of guys, who said they were scared of horses when they began their therapy. They weigh between a half ton and three quarters of a ton and many of them can move faster than a house cat; so it’s not hard to imagine why someone who doesn’t know them will be intimidated.

    Here is the deal, you don’t need to be a horseman to find a facility in your area. Make arrangements take to them or see that they go there. They have competent people who can help and want to help. Some of them will be happy to groom the big animal and their lives can change with a curry comb in their hands. Some will want to progress to riding. Some will want to work around the animals and can’t wait for their day off to be over to return to their animal friends. When a horse decides to adopt a human, it is a magical moment.

    I have talked to these guys who said, they would not be alive with these big friends. I believe them.

    No one thinks it will work, until you watch the magic. I watch the magic and get choked up at times. These programs actually work.
    We are going to need to help many more of these guys in the future, from the way things look.

  8. 8

    Spurwing Plover

    Like narrow minded Hollywood pinheads like Richard Geer who said WAR HAS NEVER SOLVED ANYTHING(Ecept making america a Free Nation and ending Nazism)stupid mindless son of hippy wanks His brain has yet to develop beyond the stupid factor

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