A Day of Remembrance

Memorial Day is a somber occasion to honor the men and women who served in the United States military and are no longer with us. Memorial Day used to be called Declaration Day, but most people refer to it as Memorial Day.

Recognized as a federal holiday, Memorial Day is held on the last Monday in the month of May. This year Memorial Day is on May 25th. Most Americans don’t truly understand the meaning behind Memorial Day and treat the day as a celebration. A majority of Americans have friends and family over and grill up some burgers and hot dogs. Memorial Day is the furthest thing from a celebration. It’s a time to remember those veterans who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice, allowing us to live freely in the greatest country in the world.

Every year on Memorial Day, my dad and other veterans that belong to his local American Legion post organize our town’s Memorial Day parade and honor services. On this day, before dawn breaks, my dad and the other members from our local American Legion meet at our cemetery with a list of all the military men and women who are buried there. They locate where veteran is buried. They say his or her name and then take a small American flag and place it on the grave to honor each life that has served. After the names are read and the flags are placed, the members participate in a gun salute before leaving. Every American Legion is responsible for placing flags and honoring the lives of those veterans who have passed away in their districts. 

The American Legion members get ready for the Memorial Day parade. I spoke to the commander of my dad’s American Legion post. He said organizing a parade to honor those who have passed can be a challenge because a parade is viewed as a celebration. So, the parade is broken into two parts. The parade itself and the ceremony that follows. The ceremony that follows is in remembrance of the lives these veterans have lived. Memorial Day is a day to honor veterans’ memories and not celebrate their deaths.

Unfortunately, the parades and barbecues and fireworks have obscured the true meaning of Memorial Day. I asked my dad his thoughts regarding how civilians view Memorial Day. He says, “Some of your generation view Memorial Day for getting discounts at shopping malls. Retail stores are making the day about spring sales and not about honoring those who have served our country.”

I asked two of my civilian friends what Memorial Day meant to them. One of my friends said, “it’s a day for veterans,” yet he was going shopping. My other friend said that he is going to drink beer and shoot fireworks and have family over for a BBQ. Although there is nothing wrong with having a party with friends and family, I feel all the sales at stores and the big parties overshadow the true reason for Memorial Day.

Maybe I feel this way because I come from a family of military members. My grandfather was a Marine who flew over the Pacific during World War II and my dad was in the Air Force. I have many friends and family who presently serve or are actively serving in the military. I hope that when some of you read this, you’ll try to view Memorial Day differently. Remember the lives those men and women have lived and what they have accomplished so you can live free in the greatest country in the world: United States of America!

About Josh McDermott: Josh is a brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab®. He is a public speaker and has served as a goodwill ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Josh lives in New York and loves to travel. Click here to learn more about Josh.