Somebody’s going to say it, or a lot of somebodies: “Happy Memorial Day.” And a veteran’s going to throw a wobbler. Or at least, grind his teeth.
Or, that other favorite, “This day is all about you. Thank you for your service.”
As readers of this blog certainly know, Memorial Day is not on occasion to celebrate those many of us who survive. At least, not in the USA. We’ve got a day for that, in the bitter month of November, for good and historical reasons. That’s the day for those who returned upright and animate. This day is to honor the ennobled among us, the ones that did not. And so many of us vets are thinking about absent friends, today; it may not be an occasion for happiness.
We are about to argue the opposite.
Nobody died so that you can mope around bewailing his fate. Let us consider an alternative way to think about him, about them. Let us, rather, take comfort and find joy in the fact that they lived, however briefly; let us remember them not as they died in a flash of HE, that unforgettable sound of a rifle-bullet impact, or an unstoppable running-down on the operating table; but rather, as they live: full of life and life’s joys, or even more honestly, life’s passions.
Surely you can call up that friend, or relative, or friend’s relative, in your mind. This was a person with a distinctive smile, a laugh, and a gait that you could spot in a throng at a hundred yards. Bring that picture into your mind, that man (or, perhaps, woman) in color and in three dimensions.
Now, take that fallen hero — for the foundation of our little world stands on the shoulders of these, and that makes them heroes if nothing else does — along with you. To the cookout, to the ball game, to the beach, to the water park.
Expect others to look at you funny, as you’re attentive to the old friend’s envy of your home or kids — or his mockery of your current state of physical fitness.
Don’t be surprised if he takes the last hot dog or the last beer — or if he leaves it for you. Either way, that’s just the kind of guy he was, wasn’t he?
We have been bringing our dead friends to holiday festivities for some years now. We haven’t told anybody, because we enjoy, most of the time, just passing as regular, sane, non-vet Americans. But now it’s time to let the secret out of the bag.
Maybe a pshrink would say it’s a coping mechanism or something, but like Tom Cruise, we stay away from those guys (maybe they could help Mr Cruise, but it’s still a free country, and that’s his business, not ours).
Anyway, when some smiling, secure, comfortable citizen looks at you and says, “Happy Memorial Day,” look right in his or her eye, shake hands if it’s suitable, and say, “Happy Memorial Day” right back. Say it like you mean it, because you’re saying it for two.
And if you’re sensitive to it, if you’re really tuned-in, that pressure on your shoulder is a squeeze from a dead hand, telling you it’s OK.
Happy Memorial Day.
CPL Keith Silha is standing at the smoker asking “Dude when is this going to be ready? I think we need more beer. Somebody needs to make a beer run.”
Davy McGuire is whispering in your ear, “get that girl to show us her boobs.”
Danny Jackson would be yelling at me for having to work and bitching that we didn’t have enough Natural Light in the cooler.
Scott-o is whispering in my ear, “I’m gonna kick your ass if you don’t PT today”.
On it, dude.
“It’s okay Bro, I got you.”
“I’m done. I’m fucked. But it’s okay, you got me.”
A toast to all the guys who wanted to be here but couldn’t make it. Save us a place at the table.
here’s what i poasted on FB regarding the issue:
years ago back when i was young and had a future, and Usenet was the k3wl place to be on line, i caught a load of crap from one of the resident trolls on a mil news group. (likely UMA)
how dare i say “Happy Memorial Day”?
to quote George:
It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.
George S. Patton
so, Happy Memorial Day to my fellow vets, and to those of you who have lost loved ones in the service of our country. i believe we are blessed to have known and to have served with those that would give all in our name.
may we be always worthy of their sacrifice.
Today I hug my granddaughter a little extra tight and kiss her forehead a little extra hard because Robert “Bobby” Brietmayer didn’t even get to see his.
That’s very good. I wasn’t expecting it, and It will be in my philosophical contemplation for a long time.
That’s very good, and along with the picture of the Marine dragging his foot, increases the tension of an internal paradox that will have to be addressed…another day.
That’s very good, it reminds me of a Bible verse, from the book of Proverbs. chapter 16:
” 32 He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city. ”
I imagine taking a city with only a sword or spear is quite a task, it’s not for the weak. So you give us this great way to look at it, definitely ruling the spirit, and I’ll regard it as the granite of this blog. Thanks, that’s very good.
Interesting post. In Israel, Memorial Day is the day before Independence Day. It is complex, and it is fitting to move from memory and mourning straight into memory and gratitude and celebration. On Memorial Day, businesses close. The sense of loss is real and palpable. But the next day’s celebration is no less real and palpable.
I do wish that American businesses did not have Memorial Day sales. Or maybe that they would open only in the afternoon, after the citizens have taken time to show their respect and gratitude in the morning.
We have Remembrance Day in November. Our May long weekend is Victoria Day, named for the Empress of India’s birthday. So we don’t have that kind of kerfuffle. However we do have dbag merchants who start their holiday season marketing the morning after Halloween rather than waiting until November 12th like they did when I was young.
I think of Ainsworth Dyer whispering to make sure the little kids get a turn during Cub Scout games.
***We have Remembrance Day in November. ***
And, of course, The Last Post and The Rouse
Our Memorial Day is ANZAC day on April 25th. But you just made me remember Doug Simpson grinning his naughty boy grin at me and wringing the throttle on his Katana 1100 as he zipped past me. Those were good times…over 3 decades ago now… and I mss him.
In germany it is called “Volkstrauertag” set two sundays before the first day of advent. I guess it was put on this date to ensure shitty grey rainy weather to set the mood. I normally visit my family’s grave to commemorate my grand uncle who is still somewhere on the eastern front.
Meanwhile some others have had their very own “happy memorial day” by digging an ACW battle ground:
“Looters Steal Civil War History at Petersburg National Battlefield”
Happy Memorial Day from Ryan Sanders, Colby Umbrell, Josh Deese, Derek Dobogai, and Frank Walkup. Rest in peace, brothers.
Not too bad, Hognose.
Damned tomcat must’ve got in again. I swear, when he sprays, it makes my eyes water. Gotta go chase him out.
Thank you for this article and the comments. Today I went to a DAV memorial service which brought back many memories of the men I had a part in the honor of laying to rest–from Iraq to Colorado, Georgia, and the Northeast. In 2010 I lost count of how many funerals I officiated for fallen Rangers. Often taking two weeks at a time with families. I remember most a father taking me aside during a family gathering and venting how angry he was at God for taking his son. It was one of the tenderest and most genuine display of faith I ever witnessed.
Hey Skip! That Koko Taylor next to you? Looks like her, maybe a bit younger, you too.
Sounds like her, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w6IY0v-0pA