Memorial Day is More Than Just a Picnic

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When I was a child I considered Memorial Day simply a holiday which interfered with my birthday plans. Inevitably, most of my friends would go out of town for the long weekend, and birthday party attendance was sparse. In later years I thought of it as an odd tradition that older friends had of decorating gravesites with plastic flowers. That it was a holiday with meaningful significance didn’t cross my mind. Though I had uncles who had served in the US military, none had died in service; Memorial Day didn’t hit that close to home.

It wasn’t until last year that I really felt the magnitude of the occasion.

On a sunny, Monday morning, we loaded up our kids and took them to the Memorial Day Services at Fort Rosecrans at Point Loma. We’d never done this kind of thing before, but for some reason, FishPapa and I were both motivated. The line for parking was amazingly long. I’m surprised that we didn’t turn around.

The kids were squirrelly during the service. Instead of sitting in chairs with the rest of the audience, we hung (as respectfully as a family of 6 children can) near the outer edges, close enough to hear, but hopefully, out of range enough so that others would not be disturbed by our kid chatter and parental shushes.

Amidst the other participants in the service were men and women of all ages, veterans of United States military service. But, there were also survivors — widowers, widows, children, parents, siblings —  of men and women who gave their lives for the pursuit and preservation of freedom — my family’s freedom.

As stories were told that morning about the sacrifices these strangers had made for our country, I couldn’t help but cry. As I watched my children walk along the road that meandered through the cemetery, I was sobered. As a mother whose son had perished in the line of duty was handed a folded, commemorative flag, I wept.

While my kids, particularly the younger ones, might not have “got” much of what was going on, it did give us opportunity to talk about the brave who’ve gone before us. And while tradition is often mocked in our “modern” culture, I’m holding on to this one.

Let’s not forget those who’ve sacrificed so much to preserve peace, to protect the defenseless, and to defend liberty.

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  1. It is so good that younger generations know who has gone before. My kids are fully aware but they are adults I grew up knowing , now it is too much in our lives thanks to Iraq

  2. I LOVED this post. It gave me goose bumps and watery eyes, possibly because 5 years ago, I learned the meaning of Memorial Day. I was like you ‘Just another holiday, no school, and a bbq what could be better?’ Despite the military members in my own family. Then I married a soldier, a man who is now an Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran, and met people that changed my life forever. We’ve lost two close friends in the current war and his family (very heavily Military) as a whole has lost more.

    Now we celebrate memorial day for more than just a reason to bbq and relax. We remember our friends, their families, our own family. We remember those we don’t know who have passed in war and their own families.

    Again, thank you for this post. The goosebumps and watery eyes are most welcome 🙂

  3. Great post. This will be our third year wearing homemade poppies in remembrance of the fallen soldiers throughout our country’s history. As my children mature, we talk a bit more each year about the significance of Memorial Day. This will be the first year that we are able to attend a Memorial Day Service and I am very much looking forward to it.

  4. Wonderful post. It wasn’t until 2 years ago that I really came to appreciate the meaning of this holiday as well. My brother now proudly serves with the 4th ID in Iraq, he gets to come home for his midtour leave in a week and while thanking the heavens above that we’ll get to see him soon it also sobers to me to realize that others haven’t been so lucky. Thank you for putting into words that which many of us have only just come to appreciate.

    1. @Rosemamie, My husband was with 4th ID. 4th ID 3-29 FA specifically. Thank you for everything your brother has done and is doing. I hope his mid-tour leave is enjoyable for all of you!

      1. @Vanessa, And a huge thank you to your husband Vanessa…it’s hard enough being a sister to a soldier, I don’t know how you amazing ladies do the wife thing 🙂

  5. I thank you for this post.
    My husband’s family is heavily military, and ever since 1989 when we got married, it’s changed its meaning for me.
    I’ll be remembering tomorrow.

  6. Thank you for posting this and I’m glad you learned (better later than never) why it matters so much. I’m a veteran who happily came back, but many others I know didn’t, so Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Veteran’s Day mean so much to me! Thank you!