What does Memorial Day mean to you? In the corporate/marketing world, it’s a weekend geared towards the unofficial transition from Spring into Summer, when people start venturing out of their house and into their yard. Pools are being opened up for the season, you can get that grill you’ve had your eye on during the big Memorial Day Sale at the big box stores and families get together for the first long weekend of the summer to grill out and enjoy the hopefully nice weather. It can be like a Black Friday for businesses that deal with the outdoors and home improvement. Just go walk into a Lowes or Home Depot and see what they have on display right as you walk in, I’m sure lawn care is right there in front by the grills and mosquito tiki torches.
Memorial Day was first observed after the Civil War and was known as Decoration Day. Businesses closed and communities came together for a day to honor and remember those that gave all. They decorated the grave sites of fallen soldiers with flags and flowers. It was time set aside to honor those who fought and died for their country. It wasn’t until 1971 until it was recognized as a federal holiday, meant as time for our nation to come together and recognize the cost of freedom that had already been paid in blood.
This weekend is a little weird and sometimes confusing for me personally and I’m sure many others. Not just since I started having to view it through a “marketing lens” recently either. There are many families and veterans across the country who struggle with how to view and “celebrate” Memorial Day because someone they loved never came home. For them, every day is Memorial Day and this weekend usually brings mixed emotions for them.
I think sometimes it’s easy to forget why we get the 3 day weekend in the first place and just try to have fun. When I first came home from Afghanistan, I really struggled with all of the emotions that come with the finality of a homecoming. Obviously it’s an extremely happy time that you are finally able to reunite with family, but it’s also the first time you’re really able to unpack your emotions you had to ignore and focus on the deployment. Looking around at everyone during our homecoming, I was finally hit with the realization that we didn’t bring everyone back. That realization turns into a burden that those that came home carry with them every day, not just one weekend a year. The most important thing I had to understand was how to both remember and honor their sacrifice and not waste this second chance that we all get from the sacrifices made by all those who came before us.
Now there’s nothing wrong with enjoying yourself this weekend! Everything I mentioned earlier is what makes this weekend so meaningful and special. I still have fond memories growing up of neighborhood block parties on Memorial weekend and pool party cookouts with family. I remember running around barefoot with my friends and our feet still being tender, we didn’t yet have the calloused feet kids develop throughout a summer spent barefoot. I remember flags in every yard and bratwursts on the grill.
The most important thing we have to remember and acknowledge is that we never forget the reason that made this weekend possible. Those who made the ultimate sacrifice did so to give us a better America and a better world. Although mourning is one way to honor those who gave their life, ultimately the best way to honor their sacrifices is to just remember how we got here. So before you jump in the pool or eat that braut this weekend, just remember their sacrifice and enjoy this great country!