Body Bags and BBQ: Getting Memorial Day Right
Origonally posted May 2013
In 1968, a young Marine Lance Corporal named Stephen Daniel took a few minutes to mourn his friend who he lost in battle the night before in the jungles of Vietnam. The Lance Corporal wrote home to his parents the following night:
Mom and Dad: Last night one more Marine died. No one will ever hear or care about it except his parents and us. There is no nation to mourn for him or fly our flag at half-mast. Yet this Marine did more for his country than any President or Senator ever did. His name was Corporal Lee Clark.
Just a few years after L.Cpl. Daniel lost his friend in battle, the U.S. Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971. Part of this act set Memorial Day to be observed as the last Monday in May rather than on a particular date on the calendar and with its passage Congress did little more than to create a national three-day weekend. In its 2002 Memorial Day address, the Veterans of Foreign Wars stated:
"Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day."
I believe the VFW is unfortunatley right on the mark. While some towns still observe this day of remembrance, many have lost their traditional Memorial Day parades to history. Many young people fail to recognize the ultimate sacrifices that American men and women have made during some of the most uncertain times in our nations history. Ironically, thousands of youths will take this day off from school only to sit inside all day and play video games such as Medal of Honor or Call of Duty without ever having someone explain to them what those words really mean.
By noon on Memorial Day, many people will have spent countless hours and even days planning some type of get-together for their family, friends or co-workers complete with BBQ and lemonade to enjoy as their kids play games in the yard. Many people will enjoy this time with their families and they will be sure to mention a soldier or Marine they know of that didn’t make it home but many others will only think about having a good time.
This Memorial Day, please take a moment, not just to think about someone who paid the ultimate sacrifice, but to talk about someone who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Mention to your kids that the reason the school closed down for a day was so they could have time to remember the kids whose father was killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. We all need to do what we can to protect the sanctity of Memorial Day; to remember that it has more to do with body bags than BBQ. While we are getting together with some of your friends, lets have enough courage to mention the courage of those 18 year olds who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom to enjoy a day off in their honor.
Many people have personally known someone who has paid for our freedom with their life however; I would say that most Americans haven’t had the honor. If you don’t personally know of anyone that you can specifically remember on Memorial Day, lets do L.Cpl. Daniel a favor and remember his buddy Cpl. Lee Clark. Lets think about what L.Cpl. Daniel must have gone through and then think about how hard it must have been for Cpl. Clarks family the moment they received the news that there young son was killed by the enemy half-way around the world while he fought for his life and the life of his Marines. Then remember that these Marines and there families aren’t alone. Let’s not let these heroic deeds go without showing some degree of gratitude; lets be sure to demonstrate our gratefulness. U.S. Air Force Colonel, Walter Hitchcock said it best when he helped coined the term “Freedom isn’t free.” We have been blessed in America but it has cost our fighting men and their families dearly. To say that freedom isn’t free would also imply that it costs us each something as well. I suppose that if we only depended on the acts of others to keep us free without any sacrifice of our own then our freedom would be free but since freedom “isn’t” free, I would have to ask what have we done, as individuals, for the security of our liberty. Can we honestly say that we have completed the sacrifice of our fallen soldiers to ensure they didn’t give their life in vain? I would argue that each American has a profound duty to guard our freedom however we are able. Whether its working on campaigns or as an activist for some important issue or by showing up on election day to choose your leaders, we all have a responsibility to fight for freedom at home also. Many of us are familiar with the phrase, “All gave some, some gave all” but would it be a terrible thing for us to let the greatness of our country slip away, little by little, election after election, only to have some of Americas bravest and youngest have given all for nothing? It is no small weight of responsibility that we bear, as Americans, to ensure that we complete the sacrifices made by our fallen countrymen.
It is incumbent on us to remember that the purpose of our entire government is to help keep us free, the military shares this responsibility at the risk of life and limb. Let us at home support and defend the Constitution that they swore an oath to support and defend. Two of my friends and Marine Corps brothers were killed in action in Iraq. I served with them both back in the early 2000s. I want to thank them both, 2nd Lt. Cathey(pictured left) and Cpl Tremblay (pictured right), I miss them and I am honored to have known them and to have served with them and I will never forget what they have done for myself and my fellow Americans and I promise that I will do my best to complete the sacrifice they have made and I will always fight for the freedom of the people and for the security of their liberty.