What Memorial Day Really Means

Each year American’s gather in backyards, lakefronts and Main Streets to celebrate Memorial Day. Parades march by, friends grill hotdogs and flags flutter. But what are we really celebrating? Do Americans even remember why they have a three day weekend? Does anyone give a thought to the cost that has been paid?

Over the course of my life, Memorial Day has held many means.

1. As a young man, it meant the end of the school year and the start of summer. Sure we would attend a parade, maybe a firework display, but we were too young to really understand what it really meant.

2. As I entered adulthood I found myself serving in our Nation’s military so Memorial Day changed to a day to remember those lost – but it was still a day off from the daily grind. Of course, we were patriotic, we had volunteered for service, but we were still too young to think those remembered might someday include us.

3. Finally, after leaving military service and entering law enforcement it took yet another turn – it was still the hectic start of summer (an unofficial party day so always busy) but became more about remembering those who came before. Most of my co-workers and friends are prior service and we all have reached a point where we know someone who has paid the price.

Maybe I’ve become more sensitive to it, maybe it’s it because of social media but this year I have noticed a lot of people complaining about how others celebrate Memorial Day. There are even those complaining that others are celebrating, claiming it disrespects those lost protecting America for whom the holiday was established.

Memorial Day is a holiday, at least in the sense that it is officially recognized by the Federal Government as such. This is why banks, schools and government offices are closed. The holiday was the result of official recognition of various events such as Decoration Day, Remembrance Day & Memorial Day held at various times in different regions of the US. The purpose of the holiday was the remembrance of America’s war dead.

Over time the holiday has not changed but the reason has become fuzzy.

Most American’s forget that it is about remembering war dead – instead of thanking all veterans, first responders or any friend/family member lost. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with any of these practices but it is not what Memorial Day is about.

I can also forgive the practice of having sales at every car dealer, furniture store and box store in town. It’s a selfish marketing ploy with no patriotic connection, just profit, at its core. But, one of the reasons those men & women have died over the years is to protect every American’s right to celebrate as they see fit.

Just don’t forget what that day cost.

The cost is not measured in dollar and cents or whether stocks rise or fall. It is measured in bodies- the bodies of those lost defending America and the reason the holiday exists.

Over the course of 241 years over 1,354,644 men & women have paid the cost with their lives. That is the estimated number of service members killed in combat operations since the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Not only does it include the 116,516 lost in World War 2 & the 58, 209 lost in Vietnam, it also includes 4 who dies during the Bay of Pigs & 1,023 lost during the Indian Wars.

This means that each year of America’s existence has cost 5,621 lives, each week 108 lives and each day 15 lives.

This means that Memorial Day was paid for by the 18 lost in Kosovo War. The 3 day weekend was paid for by the 47 lost during the 1st Seminole war.

If you remember this cost then how you celebrate is up to you- that freedom has been paid for time and again.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell

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