By Aaron Ward
Memorial Day tends to be a tender subject within the military and veteran communities. And rightfully so. It’s a time that is set aside as a nation to mourn and remember all of those who have fallen in service to the United States. Within our communities, we are often left remembering our friends that are gone, having to spill out their blood on some distant land, that most people probably haven’t heard of, and more than likely will never see. Because of this, it seems easy for us to be bitter with the population at large for throwing barbeques and enjoying a long weekend. After all, why should they be jovial when so many of us are hurting, searching for answers as to why such men and women are no longer here with us. I’ve found myself guilty of this silent outrage, brooding with contempt for what seems like a Memorial Day in nothing but name to most. But this isn’t fair to the civilians who don’t know of the sacrifices that we have carried out in their name. It comes with the territory or wearing a uniform and carrying the title, whether it be soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.
Why is it that we seem to want to impose our grief and our pain on a population that thankfully hasn’t had to know the realities of war? Maybe it’s out of misplaced fear, that they will be forgotten, their lives amounted to a brief article in their hometown newspapers accompanied with a shrug of shoulders and a simple utterance along the lines of “Damn shame.” And with that those friends will be gone.
But not us, we remember those men and women. Through tattoos, KIA bracelets, old pictures, and scars. We carry them daily. I know I do. Are we doing our part to remember these giants? Do we do them a service by shouting on social media “Memorial Day isn’t about barbeques and a day off!” Shaming others into our hurt? I don’t think so.
Instead of hammering away at others, let us instead take a second, and self-reflect. Would you want everyone from now until the end of time mourning you, would you want a day with friends and family clouded with guilt and grief that your comrades still hold?
I wouldn’t. I’d want to be remembered with smiling faces, laughs and a few toasts at my expense. So I try my best to pull myself out of the looming depression that inevitably hits me every Memorial Day and instead tries to remember my friends as they were. Giants among men, pranksters, nerds, volunteers, family men, leaders, athletes, and the list go on and on. Remember them, feel the pain of their loss every day. However, don’t burden those around you with this. Instead, raise a toast to them this weekend, tell their stories. Make people wish they were there not out of guilt, but out of wishing they could have a man of that caliber in their midst to enjoy a day with friends and family and maybe steal all of your good booze.
To those that are no longer here with us, we’ll see you on the other side, keep a beer waiting and a spot at the bar. So, in their memory, let’s try to share some good stories of our friends. I’d love to hear as many as you all have. So leave ‘em down in the comments. I’ll be raising a glass to all of them with a fond smile and a frosty beer. I hope you do too.