Every year on the last Monday of May, the United States celebrates Memorial Day, the federal holiday memorializing the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Those people could also be called "veterans."
What is Memorial Day?
Memorial Day is not a sales event.
Memorial Day is not a barbecue or cookout.
Memorial Day is not all about having fun, drinking too much, eating off the picnic table, or great savings and values. It is about honoring those lost: the lives never led. The families left shattered. The parents left mourning an only child. The children growing up without complete parental guidance.
What is a veteran?
A veteran is someone who made lifelong friends, only to see them die weeks, months, and days after meeting them.
A veteran is someone who was 19 years old and grew to be 40 years old overnight.
A veteran is someone who came home to ticker tape parades, or came home to parades who spit in their face, or came home to no one at all.
A veteran had to learn to distrust and trust at the same time.
A veteran cursed God, questioned God, begged God, and left it up to God.
A veteran learned the true definition of "loyalty'" but cannot define it in words.
A veteran is someone who took a life, gave life, and, sometimes, took their own life.
A veteran is someone who patched up the wounded, held the dying, and prayed over the dead.
A veteran is someone who wrote a letter home and then wrote a letter of condolence.
A veteran learned that, despite their fighting for the same cause in the same team, discrimination existed against them.
A veteran is someone who fought in a war against the opposition and learned "opposition" is not easily defined.
A veteran knows the true definition of nightmares, of happiness, of lonesome; knows comradeship, and fear.
A veteran is someone who rolled bandages, unrolled gauze, injected, cut, pasted, sewed, and zipped bodies into a bag hoping it was all worth the life they were leaning over.
On your way to the sale or the party this weekend, place a flag on a grave or thank a veteran this Memorial Day, even if you do not know them. Call someone who lost a family or friend to war and lend an ear. And understand why we have Memorial Day.
Photo of J. Yates credit
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Thank you to the men and women who served, and are serving, with honor and pride during wartime.