Honoring Heroes on Memorial Day

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Memorial Day.  For some it marks the inaugural day of summer or a much-appreciated day off work.  To others, it means the annual trip to the ballpark or the year’s first firing up of the grill.  With many, the thought process begins with thoughts of leisure, family, and recreation.  My assertion is that we should begin first from a place of somber gratitude. 

Since the Revolutionary War, 1,196,554 men and women have died serving in our country’s wars.  To put this number in perspective, Seattle reported a population 684,451 in 2015.  Add to that Sacramento’s 490,712, and we’re getting close.  When we try to comprehend that number in conjunction with the age and manner in which they were lost, it seems fitting to set aside a day to honor our fallen. 

So we have Memorial Day. There are a few ways to remember our fallen – one way cheapens their sacrifice and the other honors them.  Regarding their deaths as tragedy does a disservice to their memory.  Tragedy occurs when a child is struck by a car and dies.  Tragedy occurs when there is a victim who without choice, finds himself in the at the mercy of uncontrollable circumstances. 

The deaths of our fallen are not tragic – they are heroic. Our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines wear the uniform, knowing the stakes.  They were not victims of unforeseen variables.  Instead, they stood – not without fear, yet unflinching, knowing fully that their lives were the wager in a game of the highest stakes.  Our response should be to be inspired, humbled, and grateful for their sacrifices.

So this weekend, let’s enjoy the cookouts, hikes, coffee shops, friendship, and time free from the office.  But let us enjoy them with the understanding that the freedom we exercise and the opportunities available to us came and are maintained at a cost.