2017-05-27 / Viewpoints

Don’t blow of Memorial Day


(Jacob E. Serra served in the U.S. Marine Corps as an intelligence team leader/scout sniper platoon sergeant. He served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, earning a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for Valor.)

Many Americans are concerned that Memorial Day is losing its true meaning. While crowds run to the beach, others visit gravesites.

The federal holiday originated as Decoration Day to honor lives lost in the Civil War. It was later expanded to honor and remember everyone who has fallen while serving in the U.S. military.

The history and integrity of the holiday has dissipated, but there’s a simple way we can preserve it, even without going to a parade or gravesite.

In 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance resolution to preserve and promote the values of Memorial Day. The resolution asks Americans to pause at 3 pm on Memorial Day to reflect on the true meaning of the holiday.

A Gallup poll reveals that only 28 percent of Americans know the true meaning of Memorial Day, and 40 percent believed the day was set aside to remember veterans. Memorial Day isn’t about veterans – that’s Veterans Day.

At a time when our country seems more divided than ever on many issues, it’s troubling that Americans don’t come together to share a common appreciation on a day dedicated to remembering the thousands who sacrificed their lives for our nation.

I challenge you to take one minute to honor the men and women attacked at Pearl Harbor, those who died rushing the beaches of Normandy, those with names inscribed on Vietnam War memorials across the U.S., our allies who died along with us while protecting our values, and countless other service members who lost their lives across all wars.

I’m not saying the day should be entirely somber. The friends I lost in Iraq and Afghanistan would not want that. There’s a quiet, yet profound, code within the military community. It’s part of the humility and leadership we learn.

They would not want to be worshiped, but they would not want to be forgotten either. It’s a fine balance that the National Moment of Remembrance addresses.

This isn’t an attack on hanging out with our family and friends, hitting the beach, firing up the grill or enjoying a long weekend. But wouldn’t it speak volumes about us as a nation if we took a moment to put down our smartphones, stop our cars and pause our picnics to remember the service members who sacrificed their lives so we can enjoy the freedoms we have today?

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