This year ,more than most, I am affected by the media/politicians/folks who cannot grasp the huge difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Ironic that a day specifically set aside to honor the dead has become to most a day to offer thanks to all who served. I find it disrespectful.
The women and men who served and continue to serve in the military undoubtably deserve recognition. Yet this day is for the memory of those who gave that “ultimate sacrifice”. They are gone. They never came back. We cannot thank them. We do not honor their memory by proxy gratitude.
So why do I feel the need to keep inserting a disclaimer that “of course Vets need our gratitude”? This nagging feeling is directly tied to the anger welling up with each tweet from an otherwise intelligent person writing” On Memorial Day we honor all our military.”
I think we in the US have an issue with accountability for those who died. Hell, we have an issue with simply acknowledging those who died. We don’t want to think of the number of lives lost, souls gone, futures denied. For one, we cannot fathom numbers of the dead- over 58,000 – Fifty-eight thousand from the Vietnam
War Conflict, (Incidentally over 51,000 Confederate and Union soldiers died in the three days of Gettysburg). 400,000 from WWII. Over 5,000 in Iraq. And the deaths continue daily.
I can think of only one television program that consistently names those who die in military- Nancy Grace. Local and National news rarely mention when a US soldier dies. For years there was a media blackout on photos of caskets returning to the US. But there is never a blackout of the names- media just doesn’t bother. I guess its easier to remind people to thank all who served- instead of think about those who died.
Historians cannot pinpoint the first Memorial day- all agree it was Decoration Day. Most ascribe that former Slaves in South Carolina reburied Union soldiers from a mass grave and gave them a proper burial in a ceremony in 1865. There are accounts of women in Mississippi , Illinois, and Georgia decorating graves of their loved ones and noticed the Union (or Confederate) soldier graves were deserted.They used their Spring flowers to decorate them as well. By 1867, over 27 states held festivities.
The intent of the first ceremonies needs to be the same today. The dead were honored and remembered. Cemeteries were visited, flowers placed, names read. Names and lives mattered- especially because they gave all.
Why do we continue to downplay the dead? What else can you call it when we wrap Memorial day celebrations into thank a Vet? Do we go to funerals to celebrate all who are attending? No. We focus on those we will not see again- for what is lost. Why do we use military statistics only when it suits the purpose for military spending or invading another country? Why isn’t it enough that teens, young men and women, all ages and races died. Why is it so hard to give these fallen soldiers one damn day to themselves?