I love Memorial Day parades. They honor our fallen soldiers and celebrate the freedoms for which they gave their lives. Our family always went to the Bethpage parade, and I marched as a member of the 4-H Club and then in marching bands. Later, my husband and I brought our children. My father, a Korean War veteran, always made us stand when the flag passed by. This happened so frequently that I wondered why he bothered to bring lawn chairs.
At the community park, officials introduced the Gold Star mothers. I knew what a Gold Star mother was, but I could not, as a child, possibly have understood the depth of the loss these women had suffered. I feel guilty when I recall that I just wanted to shed my hot band uniform and go to the reopened community pool.
And that is the problem I’m having.
It’s wonderful to celebrate the arrival of summer, but it’s a bad idea to use Memorial Day to do it. I don’t suggest that we wear black and cry all day, but perhaps the celebratory overload, particularly the garish commercials about car and furniture sales, could be toned down. And while I’m at it, it’s utterly inappropriate to wish anyone a “Happy Memorial Day.”
Let’s observe Memorial Day rather than celebrate summer. Let’s enjoy our families and friends, because that’s exactly what these men and women died for, but let us honor their sacrifice with a little more, well, honor — and fewer mattress sales.
So many American men and women have lost their lives serving our country: members of the U.S. armed forces, police officers and firefighters, diplomats, 9/11 responders and so many more.
On this Memorial Day weekend, we should attend ceremonies on hallowed grounds. Long Island has national cemeteries and county, town and local monuments. We should bow our heads in reverence and remember all of our heroes and what they did for us.
This weekend will draw enormous crowds to Jones Beach for a display of fighter planes and the recruitment of young men and women to serve in the military. Not much thought will be given to the need to work for peace and avoid war.
Memorial Day weekend should be a time to honor those who have died or been physically or mentally injured, and all those who have served. However, it is also a time to work to avoid future wars.
In war, there are no winners. If we want other countries to dismantle their nuclear weapons or avoid developing them, the United States needs to dismantle our own weapons. It is hypocritical for the United States to ask other countries to give up their weapons or forgo developing them when we have a massive arsenal. We also need to remember that only Congress has the power to wage war.
Editor’s note: The writer is a member of Long Island Pax Christi, an advocacy organization.