Their courage nerves a thousand living men." ~Minot J. Savage, Decorating the Soldiers’ Graves
"Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours."~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Decoration Day
Today is the day we Americans have set aside to honor our warriors who have fallen in battle. Since the Vietnam War of the 70's, when America shamed herself by treating her veterans of that conflict poorly, we've swung to the opposite end of the spectrum in trying to out-do one another with expressing love for our military folks, both the living and the dead.
Many will thank a veteran or military service member today- and I can tell you on behalf of all of us, we don't want you to do that. This is NOT our day. This a day to honor those who have fallen in battle, not those of us who lived through the battle, nor those of us who've never seen battle. We appreciate your sentiment, but we do not wish to take from those who gave the sacrifice of their lives here on earth in war.
A lot of folks will post a Facebook meme or say a silent prayer or put out a flag and then race off to their barbecues, picnics, and "unofficial start of summer" celebrations.
So, what do I suggest that you do to honor them?
I can guarantee you that those who fell in battle (and those of us who live) want you to go to those picnics, barbecues, pool parties and the like because those are freedoms you enjoy in America. You can cook and eat what you want here. You can dance and swim and play. Your children can squeal in delight as they run through a sprinkler or jump into a pool. You can choose where you want to celebrate- at the beach, a friend's home, in an American state park.. all of these are things that many in the world cannot do.
Because they live under tyranny and oppression. They are not able to eat as well as you, nor would their children be safe in a park or in the back yard playing, and a sprinkler or swimming pool would be unheard of where they live. You can pursue your happiness here as a right, not a privilege.
That's what these brave folks died trying to preserve. Oh, don't get me wrong. Our government has sent people out to wars that were unjust and not truly fighting for "Freedom"; but those who didn't make those decisions and who gave their lives did so for the ideal of freedom and love of this country. They made a conscious choice to serve "We the People" at all costs, including their lives.
I don't ask that you spend the day mourning them, or that you have to be solemn and reverent all day long. The fact that you are exercising your freedoms is what they would want to know you were doing.
Perhaps though, during the picnic, barbecue or some time during the day, you could toast them with a beverage of choice and just say a simple "Thank you". It's more than they would expect and the very least that they deserve.
"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived." ~ George S. Patton