Why It’s Okay to Celebrate on Memorial Day
Memorial Day is more than a day of sales and backyard barbecues and weekends at the beach and the start of summer. Memorial Day is a solemn holiday, instituted by General Logan to commemorate the fallen and honor the dead and remember the widows and orphans of those who gave their last full measure.
I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to do both. We can honor our dead, remember the fallen, #HonorThem, while enjoying those freedoms that they secured for us. I know this truth because it is written in that wonderful book, The Bluejackets Manual.
For those unfamiliar with this epic repository of naval knowledge, the book has been in print since 1902. Hundreds, thousands, even hundreds of thousands of copies have been published through the years. The US Naval Institute is on their 24th Edition. A copy is given to every Sailor who joins our Navy.
And the Bluejacket Manual tells us that we fly our national ensign at half staff until noon (emphasis mine) at which time the ship or station should fire a gun twenty one times. After the last round is fired, the flag is raised to full staff. If a gun is not available, then the flag is raised at 12:20 local.
We recognize the sacrifice and mourn the loss of our brothers and sisters in arms. We tell stories about them, we share their pictures, we visit their graves, we fly the flag at half-staff. And then we raise the flag, signifying the victory that they fought and won for us.
Like anyone who has served in our military, I have lost friends. The first were in training accidents. We lost good friends that way. Not KIA (killed in action) and yet, in a way, they were. They were killed being prepared to fight our advesaries. I lost comrades. Two full P3 Orion crews went down when they apparently collided with all souls lost. Not KIA and yet, they were. They died training to search for submarines during the Cold War. The first Gulf War brought more loss. The Iraq and Afghan wars even more. Every single loss is a personal and national tragedy. Every single death in defense of our nation is a loss to our nation, and at the same time every single death is deeply personal. My nephew left us, left his child, his parents, his family, his nation.
So, with a heart heavy with loss, I urge you to observe the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 PM local, wherever you are. As you enjoy that beer, brat, burger, with your friends and family around you, remember those who cannot. Remember their wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, children, brothers and sisters who mourn them every day.
And then, remember your freedoms. Remember their success.
Raise the flag at 12:20 promptly. And celebrate their victories!
[Unless you have you plan to fire a twenty-one gun salute at your house. In which case, I urge you to invite me. Because, well, because cannon.]