Memorial Day, in all its shades

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 26, 2014

Let’s be blunt. Memorial Day ain’t what it used to be.
The holiday, whose origins go back to the years just after the Civil War, is meant to remember and honor those who have died in service to the United States.
But in many instances, Memorial Day has become a second Veterans Day, when any Tom, Dick, Harry and Jane who has ever served in the military seems to qualify for tribute, whether they’re dead or alive. Given any veteran’s personal sacrifice for the country, it’s difficult to take issue with this watering down of Memorial Day and much easier to embrace whatever communities across the nation do to honor our fighting men and women, both past and present.
The Post is as guilty as any institution in lending new shades to Memorial Day. Many of the military-related stories today and leading up to the holiday have focused on veterans — men and women — who served when the wartime stakes were high but managed to survive and live long, productive lives. It’s not wrong to pay them tribute. Rather, their stories are reminders of how many of the people they served with did not come home.
What else has Memorial Day become? You could view it as the official start of summer, the beginning of outdoor grilling season and the grudging acceptance of hot days and sticky nights.
It’s a time for baseball, a three-day excuse for beach trips and, for many young workers, the beginning of summer jobs. Memorial Day has become associated in our minds with the end of school and happy graduations.
Still, there are ways to celebrate Memorial Day in meaningful, individual ways. Take a solemn walk through the Salisbury National Cemetery. It’s a powerful experience.
Find a church cemetery in the country and look for the graves of war veterans. They are usually marked.
Go to a local monument, such as the memorial in downtown Mocksville that lists Davie County’s war dead, and whisper each name.
Find a Peace Pole in Rowan County — there are now eight of them, thanks to the Covenant Community Connection — and pray for the end of all wars.
Attend the Memorial Day observance at the National Cemetery annex on the grounds of the Hefner V.A. Medical Center that starts at 10 this morning.
Or maybe take part in the National Moment of Remembrance, which encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. today for a minute of silence to remember those who have died in service to our country.
Do that, and you’ll be back to Memorial Day, the way it was meant to be.