Our shared re­spon­si­bil­ity on Me­mo­rial Day

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Opinion -

If chil­dren are con­fused about the mean­ing of Me­mo­rial Day, that’s on us. Col­lec­tively, we have not been the best stew­ards of the most somber of our na­tional hol­i­days. As time sweeps fur­ther from its ori­gins in the wake of the Civil War — and its dec­la­ra­tion as a fed­eral hol­i­day on May’s last Mon­day dur­ing the Viet­nam War — it has been re­duced to a synonym for the dawn of sum­mer. Even that char­ac­ter­i­za­tion is wildly mis­guided, as the sea­son won’t be­gin un­til June 21.

Of course, there’s also the nag­ging iden­tity cri­sis Me­mo­rial Day shares with Vet­er­ans Day, though we won’t stop you from thank­ing a veteran on this, or any other day of the year.

Even the his­tory of the hol­i­day has got­ten muddy. More towns claim to be the birth­place of Me­mo­rial Day than the cra­dle of base­ball. Much of this is apoc­ryphal.

Still, some­one (we’re not sure who) had the right idea some­time about 150 years ago (don’t hold us to a spe­cific date). All that mat­ters is that those who gave their lives for our coun­try de­serve for us to take some time to con­tem­plate their sac­ri­fices. None of us should need a re­minder on the cal­en­dar, but we are for­tu­nate to have one.

Eigh­teen years ago, Congress passed the Na­tional Mo­ment of Re­mem­brance Act, which en­cour­ages Amer­i­cans to pause for one minute at 3 p.m. on Me­mo­rial Day to re­mem­ber those who died pro­tect­ing our free­doms.

It’s not ask­ing a lot. Ac­tu­ally, it’s not ask­ing enough. We’re not dis­miss­ing the re­al­ity that this three-day week­end has in­her­ited many wel­come Amer­i­can tra­di­tions, such as the kick­off of the beach-and-bar­be­cue sea­son and the In­di­anapo­lis 500. But a gen­er­a­tion that can doc­u­ment each meal on so­cial me­dia needs a nudge to re­dis­cover the solemn ori­gins of this day. At­ten­dance at lo­cal pa­rades is too sparse.

So let’s start some new Me­mo­rial Day tra­di­tions. Let’s re­mind one an­other that this is a time to think about the rea­sons for wars, past, present and fu­ture. This year’s Me­mo­rial Day ar­rives at a time when the world’s see-saw seems tilted closer to fu­ture wars than to pend­ing peace.

With that as a back­drop, we need to rec­og­nize our com­mon ground, to cel­e­brate our free­doms and fiercely cling to them.

This is no time to dis­miss sac­ri­fices on be­half of our na­tion’s prin­ci­ples. So con­sider tak­ing the time this Me­mo­rial Day to pon­der a flag on a stranger’s grave. Mark the pa­rade on your cell phone cal­en­dar so you don’t squan­der the chance to par­tic­i­pate. Ex­plore the his­tory of those in your per­sonal or­bit for some­one who gave their life for our na­tion. Share sto­ries of such sac­ri­fices on so­cial me­dia. Visit a veteran. Raise the flag at half-mast un­til noon, as per Amer­i­can tra­di­tion.

Take that sin­gle minute to honor the many who have fallen.

In words and ac­tion, teach chil­dren the mean­ing of Me­mo­rial Day.

This year’s Me­mo­rial Day ar­rives at a time when the world’s see-saw seems tilted closer to fu­ture wars than to pend­ing peace.

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