Take Back Memorial Day

This morning I opened the paper and a series of circulars spilled onto my lap bright, colored pages with bold fonts and frenetic language: Now through Memorial Day only! and A Dont Miss Memorial Day Sales Event! As I took a deep breath and gathered up the pages that had spilled to the floor, at once it struck me: We owe more than commerce to those who sacrificed the balance of their lives for their country. It's time to take back Memorial Day.Memorial Day is meant to be a solemn occasion, a uniquely military holidaythe only one that honors fallen soldiers. But since the first one on May 30, 1868, a little after the Civil War (then known as Decoration Day) when flowers were placed on the graves of soldiers from both the North and the South, Memorial Days quiet reverence has slowly been lost to the noise of commerce and the American pursuit of recreation. This didnt happen overnight; it snuck up on us. And its not necessarily the fault of the American people who time and again have proved themselves patriots.Even more surprising is that this disappointing trend hasnt ebbed since the Long War began more than four years ago. Today the solemnity once associated with this day should be closer to the surface. Our nation is at war, which is to say our friends, family, and neighbors are fighting. Some of them do not make it home. In recent years, too many Americans have been personally touched by the sacrifice of battle. But the unfortunate reality is that for most people, the war remains a distant concept, something that happens on TV.Losing brave Americans on fields of strife is not a new phenomenon. Its part of our heritage. For over two hundred and twenty five years, our troops have made the ultimate sacrifice for what they believed was worth more than their own lives: Freedom. Not just the notion of freedom or the sound bite called forth in politically expedient ways, but freedom practiced by Americans every day.This freedom is a gift across time, given most often anonymously. And now it is Memorial Day. How can Americans take it back and do right by the valor that created this day?By action. For starters, the National Moment of Remembrance resolution asks that at 3 PM local time on Memorial Day all Americans should voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence.Beyond that, Americans can honor the dead by supporting the living, especially those who serve. Send a note or visit the family of a servicemember who has died. Visit a veteran who is convalescing. Make a donation to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Armed Forces Relief Trust, or the Armed Services YMCA. Volunteer to work with local veterans groups. Encourage your employer to publicly recognize the veterans who work with you. Better yet, commit to hire veterans or military spouses in the coming year.Visit the graves of fallen soldiers. Leave a flower on the stone. Consider the grave and behold the cost of freedom.Or simply shake a Soldiers hand. Support for the troops is more than a sticker on an SUV. Whatever we do, lets make it personal, not commercial.Let us take back Memorial Day, not for abstract ideas or guilt for having forgotten, but to pay a debt. To rememberand to act on the memoryis the least we can do for the men and women who said, I will die so strangers lives will be better. Make Memorial Day a personal reflection of a strangers costly gift.-- Chris Michel

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