What are your plans for Memorial Day?

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Alex Griffin
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
As the Memorial Day weekend approaches and Americans pack their bags for vacation, head to the pool to begin the summer, or rush to be first in line for a sale. Most people will not take time to think about the very day that is cause for a break from work and school. Memorial Day is not another day for the culture of "me". It is a day for remembrance.

At the same time, however, thousands of Americans will remember. They will plant flags before headstones, march in parades, and inevitably click "like" on Memorial Day Facebook posts.

Memorial Day is ultimately a holiday of remembrance and sacrifice. From its humble beginnings when widows placed flowers on Civil War graves, it has grown into something much bigger. At the same time, it has lost something.

During holidays like this, the gulf between Airmen and Civilians becomes apparent. The notion of sacrifice erupts at the center. Sacrifice means something much different to the Airman who lost his friend in Iraq than to the man who complains about his slow internet connection. The sacrifice of a Soldier who will never meet his son is much different from the woman who complains because the newest phone is too expensive. Let us remember what real sacrifice is.

We hear talk of a society of "have's" and "have-not's". We see the protests of the so-called 99 percent. We don't hear about the other 1 percent, the other elite. The elite who wear a uniform make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. They proudly and continually wear the uniform and all that comes with it.

There isn't much talk of the society of service and in turn those who are served. But service is something, we take on willfully. Sacrifice is something that we all know. We spend weeks and months away from family, we miss anniversaries and birthdays, we give our time and our sweat. We watch as our families sacrifice their time, their lives and their dreams to support us in our duty.

But there are millions of Americans who have sacrificed more than just time and tears. Those, as Lincoln said during the Gettysburg Address, "gave their last full measure of devotion". This is a reality of the uniform and a reality of service in wartime. This reality is the essence of Memorial Day. For those who have never worn a uniform, it is difficult to connect to sacrifice on the level service members and their families know. Memorial Day is the time when we all remember sacrifice of life for country. The small town memorials, the rows of repeating, white, marble headstones, a simple American Flag; all shine as testimony to our memory, our memorials.

On this day, I encourage you to tell your story and be vocal of your service as we remember friends and fellow service members who have died. Furthermore, I charge you to keep the memory of those who died, alive. Not just of the fallen in Iraq or Afghanistan, but even from the nation's earlier conflicts. Remember the Colonial Patriot who risked everything to create a new nation. Remember the thrill-seeking pilots of World War I who died in a scorched earth no-man's land. Remember the Flying Tigers of World War II and the ones of today who did not come home.

From Bastogne to Baghdad and King's Mountain to Kabul, we must remember those who stood and flew with their brothers and sisters. Remember the men and women who stand in what Teddy Roosevelt called "the arena", and "whose faces (are) marred with dust and sweat and blood". Remember the ones who gave it all, so that America can continue to drive toward the future with hope of better days. We are the men and women who willfully shoulder the burden. Let us keep the memory of the fallen alive if not every day, at least this day.