Nothing Happy About It!

These heroes are dead. They died for liberty. They died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines. They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless Place of Rest.


To many, Memorial Day is a great excuse for a three-day weekend. It’s also known as the day that marks the official start of summer and a day devoted to picnics and getting great deals at the mall. However, the true meaning of Memorial Day goes far beyond barbecues and mattress sales.

There are some who will argue that Memorial Day is happy, given the freedoms we enjoy. They say it’s perfectly alright to say “Happy Memorial Day” as a greeting over the coming three-day weekend.
That’s nonsense.

Radio stations mark the occasion to promote a weekend of “Beaches, Music and Barbecues!” “We’re your Memorial Day station with everything you need to kick off the summer in style!”
That’s nonsense.

If you want to celebrate our nation and our freedoms, there’s a day for that – July 4, Independence Day. On that day, you can light up some illegal fireworks, guzzle your beverage of choice and otherwise show your American pride … and be “happy” about it.

But saying “Happy Memorial Day” is like saying “Congratulations on your Grandma’s Death.”

There is nothing remotely “Happy” about Memorial Day. It is a day to be commemorated, not celebrated. It is supposed to be a day of quiet reflection, remembrance, tribute and rendering honors to those who have given their lives to guarantee you the freedom to be able to take full advantage of the rights their deaths secured for you.

It’s bad enough that Memorial Day is supposed to be commemorated on May 30th … not May 27th, 28th, 29th or May 31st. It makes no difference on what day of the week the 30th falls, that’s when Memorial Day is supposed to be observed. But that solemn tradition ended over fifty years ago.
That’s because the United States Congress, in 1968, passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to give Americans 3-day weekends. After all, what’s more important … one-hundred-plus years of American tradition or one more 3-day weekend?

It’s bad enough few Americans understand that Veterans Day in November is intended to honor all those who have worn a uniform serving in this nation’s Military, especially those still living. But it’s pitiful that most Americans can’t seem to comprehend that Memorial Day is the one day a year when we are asked to remember those who gave their lives for this country.

Let me repeat that … they gave their LIVES.

Most of them were teenagers or in their twenties. Many of them left behind a spouse after being married for a very short period of time. Some of them left behind infant children who grew up never knowing one of the two people who brought them into this world. All of them had plans for a full and long life, but they interrupted those plans because they knew that serving their country, and the risks that commitment entailed, was more important than life itself.

Their dreams and their expectations ended suddenly on a battlefield, usually in some foreign land, or during a secret mission to ensure this country is not attacked without warning. Some of them are buried in unmarked graves on foreign soil or rest forever in the sea. Some became missing in the fog of war and will never be accounted for.

As Americans, we need to remember why Memorial Day is special. It’s not about picnics, trips to the beach, or a countdown of the 100 top summer songs. It’s not about ball games, car deals or summer clothing sales. It’s about honor, duty and the ultimate sacrifice. It’s about people who decided that the United States was worth dying for.

And one more thing…

Freedom is just a fancy word to many but to those who risked everything and to those who lost their beloved warriors and have only their names on a gravestone left to them, freedom is the crown. It is their crown but it is we who get to wear it. They earned it for us all to wear. Let us use our freedoms well and honorably.

There are many issues which divide us as a nation, and of course it is your right as an American to speak your mind, but on Memorial Day – a hallowed day of remembrance – do not abuse those warriors who protected the very freedoms that permit you to speak it.

Set aside negativity and anger. Give the Facebook political rhetoric the day off. Remember instead the heroes who have given their lives – from Lexington to Afghanistan, and all of the too many wars in between.
“They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation.”
We owe them a day filled with quiet dignity, respect and gratitude. After everything they did for us, we most certainly owe them that.

Comments (18)

  1. Pat Conant

    Well said, Ray

    Reply
    1. Ray (Post author)

      Thank you, Pat

      Reply
  2. Penny

    well said Ray and mirrors what I have said for years, especially the last few years. I won’t be bbq’ing, partying, going to the beach or whatever on Monday. I will be at the National Cemetery here in Nashville. God bless you and have a peaceful week-end!

    Reply
    1. Ray (Post author)

      Penny, I know how difficult weekends like this are for you. Hell, I know how difficult every single day is for you.
      God Bless YOU!

      Reply
  3. Sharon Crossman

    Ray, even when there is a parade iI end up with a tummy in knots as I see the disrespect shown Flags and Marching Veterans. Hats are not removed and children are not taught Why they should be somber and care. I certainly taught my grandchildren. Children must be taught Pride for them to have it, know it, understand it 🇺🇸

    Reply
    1. Ray (Post author)

      Sharon, you taught them well. Nice job.

      Reply
  4. Liz

    Written with heart and wisdom.

    Reply
    1. Ray (Post author)

      Thank you, Liz. I admit I get more passionate about Memorial Day (and patriotism in general) as I get older.

      Reply
  5. Suzanne Murray

    Ray, Each year your posts are a reminder to all of us of what this day really does mean. This year is no different and I truly appreciate each and every word. As we age, we do see things in a much different light and the respect that those who have served and those who are serving deserve is beyond words~! Thank you for that and my heartfelt Thank You to all who have served and/or sacrificed themselves for all of us does not seem sufficient!

    Reply
    1. Ray (Post author)

      Suzanne, you have no idea what your comment means to me. I am honored.

      Reply
  6. Al

    Very nice Ray, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Your passion is admirable.

    Reply
    1. Ray (Post author)

      Thank you, Al. Your comment is greatly appreciated.

      Reply
  7. Barbara

    Ray – I am so glad you share your passion with us …. so that we may share it with others. We have lost sight of what’s important in so many ways. It’s not always about ourselves or what feels good … I am hopeful you will allow me to share this post as these words need to be shared far and wide … to remind us all of what so many have given for our freedom …. thank you again for not being afraid to speak out for what is right…. I will think about your words many times this week end as I reflect on what these men and women gave for me ….

    Reply
    1. Ray (Post author)

      Barbara … I would be honored to have you share the column with others. Thank you for your very kind comments.

      Reply
  8. Cindy

    Ray, so very well expressed. I wish everyone could understand the real meaning of Memorial day. As you said it is not a day of celebration, it is a day to remember all of the lives that were given so that we can live the life we want. I too will share your post and hope that many will read it and say a silent thank you to all of those who gave their all. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. God Bless.

    Reply
    1. Ray (Post author)

      Cindy, thank you for your very kind comments.

      Reply
  9. Donna

    Your words are so profound and so true! Our country is losing its pride in what is good and right. Holidays should not be changed to make 3 day weekends or so the name of the Holiday doesn’t offend someone. History should be revered and respected and used as a tool for guidance in the present and the future.
    Brave, strong, and yes terrified men stood/stand in battles for their freedom and ours. We owe them respect, gratitude and our free lives.
    God Bless our fallen heroes, our living heroes and their families. God Bless America!!!

    Reply
    1. Ray (Post author)

      Donna … YOUR words are inspiration in motion! Thank You!

      Reply

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