I had a note yesterday from a work colleague, actually we all did, telling us if we wanted something from him through next Tuesday, we needed to ask him by close of business yesterday as at the end of today he's off for 'the Memorial Day weekend.' That read really strange to me, but many of us have already started the countdown to the "unofficial" start of summer, Memorial Day, which we will observe this coming Monday with barbecues, picking over one another’s yard sales and softball games.
Previous generations used to observe, not celebrate, Memorial Day, by visiting the graves of relatives and friends who'd died in uniform and placing flowers and little American flags. Many called the holiday Decoration Day, and there was a wisp of solemnity, of measuring the space between, that we’ve long since abandoned. War was personal and not something we watched by double-clicking and turning up the volume.
We called everyone serving in the military when we had a draft 'our boys in uniform' because only men were drafted. After the draft was eliminated in 1973 and both sexes could serve, maybe because we thought it sounded silly to say 'our girls in uniform', we started saying 'our women in uniform' and once we did that it made sense to also say 'our men in uniform.' Odd how women made men out of boys, eh?
A lot of incredibly brave and talented people sacrificed their lives for the notion of this nation so we could cook baby-back ribs or check out the deals at the car dealerships over the next couple of days. But and this isn't secret but we don't say it out loud very often, it wasn’t just the brave and talented--a lot of very frightened, flawed and ultimately fragile men and women died while in uniform so we could complain about the price of gas, how the City Council does, or doesn’t, know what they’re doing with the city budget, how our favorite ball club is off to slow start again and worry about what we're going to do with the kids when the school year ends.
Life is millions and billions of interconnected moments, each one linking and leading to the next from the previous and each of our lives is really what we do within those moments, together and alone. For many of us, life right now is harder than it has been in a long time, but when you measure it against those who sacrificed their lives for ours, it is still to be treasured and savored.
We are, despite ourselves and to the amazement and admiration of everyone else on the globe, living in the greatest country on earth. About one and half million men and women in uniform have lost their lives fighting in our wars. Many of them probably had the same issues, questions and concerns that many of us do-but it didn’t stop them from doing what they could do, and had to do, to protect people, us, whom they would never know. We need to start living like we owe them something, because we do.