I have seen a great many posts about Memorial Day by people from all walks of life. Some post about their vacation plans or their BBQ plans or their beach plans. Others post their tributes to loved ones lost in wars. While it stings to hear the former- people who seemingly consider nothing more to this day than another day off from work, or sales at the mall- I can’t let myself get too caught up in the anger. And I urge all families of fallen soldiers to pause a moment, and take a deep breath, before snapping at those fortunate souls who don’t know our pain.
Think back if you will. Far, far back. When you were just like them. Even when your husband/wife/brother/sister/son/daughter was active duty, and even deployed- but alive. Did Memorial Day really impact you the way it does now? Was even a part of you truly, simply, grateful for the day off from work, or looking forward to a BBQ? Were you not grateful for the extra day spent with the people you love, or maybe just spent in blissful solitude? Maybe you tossed up a FB post to honor the fallen, or maybe you went to a ceremony. Good for you.
I do remember when Memorial Day, though I always noted its significance in my thoughts, was mostly a three day weekend. When I went to BBQs and loved having time with my family. I may even have commented on such in public. Until the Memorial Day in 2005 when my husband deployed to Iraq. And then 11 days later when he was killed, Memorial Day used to be different to me too. And I realize that my anger at people who dare to treat this as just a day off is in fact founded upon jealousy.
I wish I was them. I wish it was still a fun three day weekend for me and not so wracked with pain that it makes me weak. I wish I didn’t replay in mind that Memorial Day weekend all those years ago when I kissed my husband goodbye for the last time. That I didn’t torture myself with the things I should have said. That he hadn’t died just 11 days later. I wish I didn’t hurt all over again when I read people’s comments about how military widows don’t deserve to retain any benefits, should they fight their way back to life. But that’s just not the case.
Still, I’m trying hard not to resent the rest of the population. Yes, given the fact we have been and remain at war, that at this moment there are people away from their families, defending mine, and that there is no end in sight, this country should be more reverent on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and every day. But I am also trying to understand. And be respectful. And represent my husband and all like him. I am reminding myself that everyone has struggles – even if I dont see them. Maybe for them, Memorial Day weekend provides a temprorary escape from those struggles. Maybe it gives someone more time with the people they love. Time they don’t ordinarily have and time they cherish. That they have this time, because of people like my husband, is something he would smile about. “Listen up people,” he’d say. “I died for my country. For you. Don’t waste my death and my family’s pain. Enjoy the day. But you better have one for me. And you better make sure you make the most of each day, because so many of us paid for it.”
Or something like that. But probably with a few curses in there. ha.
I’m not sure what the answer is -how we navigate this day in the midst of so many that don’t “get it.” But I leave you with this clip of my son, taken years ago. He’s just a little boy here, where today he is taller than me and halfway through high school. But inside, he is still that boy who misses his dad.
Check it out. Share. Comment. Let my kids know you care about their dad, and that today, you thank him.
Barb Allen Is A Gold Star Wife, Author & National Speaker. She's a professional veterans advocate who understands the personal and factual struggles of turning adversity into advantage. But this lesson did not come easily and this upper hand must be diligently maintained. Now, Barbara brings her life lessons to her audiences in keynote speeches and custom programs. She relates to her audiences’ lives and challenges, and teaches them how to become gladiators in their own life’s arena.