There are moments that Memorial Day seems to be complex. It's the unofficial beginning of summer. It's a beach weekend. It's a time for family and friends to gather. If Thanksgiving is the busiest weekend of the year for travel, Memorial Day may be the busiest weekend of the year for barbecue grills!
And, of course, it's a weekend for gratitude. Amidst the beach reports, newscasters will seek ways to say thanks...often, thanks to those who have worn the uniform and especially those who are now wearing the uniform.
I intended to say that, on reflection, Memorial Day is not complex. It's not for saying thanks to those who have served--there's a day for that: Veterans Day. It's not to celebrate those who are serving--there's a day for that: Armed Forces Day. Memorial Day is for remembering those who have fallen--who have given their lives for our nation.
And I planned to say "It's that simple." But how can the ultimate sacrifice of roughly one million Americans be simple? We struggle even find terms to adequately describe it. "Ultimate sacrifice"...sounds so sterile. Lincoln did better: "...the last full measure of devotion." At least it's more evocative.
Perhaps it's hard to describe because the magnitude of the sacrifice each of our fallen has made is hard to comprehend. Those who lie in our national cemeteries and in cemeteries around our nation and around the world literally gave all...all their tomorrows...all their hopes...all their dreams. And for that, no amount of gratitude on Memorial Day is sufficient.
So if their sacrifice is so overwhelming, so difficult for us to comprehend, perhaps it is not surprising, not inappropriate that on a day designated to honor them, we also do other things...salute those in uniform...gather with family and friends...and turn our faces to the sun.
All of that has its place, so long as we do not fail to acknowledge those who lie in honored glory in our cemeteries. And not just in cemeteries. In our hearts. The real point of Memorial Day is to ensure that the fallen lie in honored glory in our hearts. And that really is simple.