Use Memorial Day to educate not shame
On Memorial Day, U.S. citizens from coast to coast will pay tribute to the nation's fallen military members who died in service to their country. Many will participate in parades, visit cemeteries to place flowers on grave sites, and attend memorial services in honor of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States.
Sgt. Titus Fields, infantryman, Honor Guard Company, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), places an American flag in front of a gravestone in Arlington National Cemetery during May 24, 2013. Each year, Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) carefully placed flags by hand, one by one, in front of each of the gravestones at the cemetery in tribute to the service and sacrifice of the nation's fallen service members who rest there. (U.S. Army Photo)
Memorial Day weekend is also widely considered the unofficial start of the summer season. Many will take advantage of the long weekend to relax from a hectic work schedule and spend some time with their families. Americans will be heading to the beach, firing up the grill, and kicking back with a cold one. American capitalism will be in full force as businesses advertise sales and consumers hit retail stores looking for a great deal. Memorial Day sales have been part of American society for decades.
In recent years, however, there's been an increase in shaming those who partake in any leisure activities at a time designated to honor America's fallen heroes. Memes with imagery of grieving widows and children fill social media sites attempting to make people feel guilty people about enjoying themselves.
While the purpose of the meme may be to aid the public's understanding of the true meaning of the holiday, it also tends to rub people the wrong way.
Veterans have the ability to change the conversation – and their voices need to be heard. Veterans have the perspective to understand the sacrifice of military service and may have a personal connection understanding the loss of a comrade during his or her time in uniform.
The civilian-military divide is well documented. Most Americans don't have a personal connection with someone in the military, let alone someone who has died in a war. The efforts of veterans shouldn't increase this divide.
The American people work hard. In fact, many reports show Americans work more hours than any other nation in the industrialized world. There is nothing wrong with enjoying some time off. Disgracing our fellow citizens by posting these memes regardless of the intent only serves as a cheap shot and doesn't do any good to remember the fallen.
This Memorial Day weekend, veterans should honor their fallen brothers and sisters in arms by celebrating them and sharing their stories, both online and off, with others who may not have an affiliation with the military or don't understand the meaning of the holiday. Whether you're a veteran, active member, or military family member, this weekend should be about educating, not shaming our fellow citizens.
Those who died in service to the nation did so in the course of protecting our country's way of life for generations to come. And, yes, that way of life includes poolside BBQs on the last Monday in May. Our fallen heroes wouldn't have it any other way.
Bagpiper Chris Jackson plays "Amazing Grace" at the Memorial Day Observance at the Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall May 26, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by J.D. Leipold)
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