JIM CREES: Memorial Day is ... Memorial Day

I realize it’s a couple days late, but I really feel I need to write something ... again.

This past Monday, the nation commemorated Memorial Day.

Note please, I wrote “commemorated” and didn’t use “celebrated.”

There’s a reason.

Celebrate Verb:

  • Mark (a significant or happy day or event), typically with a social gathering: “his parents threw a party to celebrate his graduation.”
  • Do something enjoyable to mark such an occasion: “she celebrated with a glass of champagne.”

Memorial Day is not a celebration in the most common use of the word. Rather, it should be a solemn commemoration — a day set aside to remember those men and women who over the years have given their lives while in the service of this nation.

I’ve said it before. I’ll probably say it again ... I have a problem with Memorial Day.

Quite frankly, I just don’t quite understand why it is less a day set aside for remembering, and is too often just a reason to extend the weekend and party a little longer.

Over the past couple decades, I’ve found it, and still find it, a little disappointing that people around this country simply don’t seem to know what Memorial Day is all about.

Many politicians, speakers, and writers seem to mistake Memorial Day with other holidays.

In one address this past weekend, a local speaker noted that on this Memorial Day we Americans need to remember the fallen, to thank veterans for their service, and to work together to make sure veterans and service people have the benefits they deserve after serving this nation with honor.

These are all worthy sentiments, but truth be known, Memorial Day isn’t a day set aside to salute veterans for their past service. Nor is it the day created to thank members of the armed forces for their continuing service

Memorial Day is Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is a legislated national holiday on which the people of these United States are asked to take a few moments from their busy day grilling, water skiing, or mowing the lawn to remember that we are here as a nation because others gave their lives in far away conflicts around the globe while protecting their generation and ours.

Memorial Day was actually established as an official holiday in Title 5 of U.S. code (5 U.S.C. § 6103) and the long weekend we now enjoy was created by with a standard Monday oabservance under Public Act 90-363.

When I was a kid, Memorial Day was serious. It was an important commemoration in our home, neighborhood, and church community. Maybe because so many of our dads had served and fought in the Second World War and the Korean War.

But the traditional observance of Memorial Day seems to have largely petered out, and many Americans have simply forgotten the meaning and traditions of this day.

That isn’t to say we shouldn’t honor veterans of military service to this nation.

But please understand, they have their day.

Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) made November 11 in each year a legal holiday called “Armistice Day.”

Initially Armistice Day was a day created to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, following both World War II and the Korean War, members of the 83rd Congress, with considerable lobbying by veterans organizations, amended the Act of 1938 changing the word “Armistice” to the word “Veterans.”

With this legislation Veterans Day on November 11, became a day to honor all American veterans throughout the years, in both war and peace.

We should honor our veterans every day. They also have their legislated holiday, and it isn’t Memorial Day.

Those serving on active duty also have their day.

Armed Forces Day is annually celebrated on the third Saturday in May.

This day was established in 1949, and is meant to offer a day for honoring the service of all standing military personnel, in every  branch of the armed forces.

We should be honoring this service ... daily.

But Memorial Day isn’t the day set aside for doing so.

Memorial Day is the one day in the year during which all Americans are asked to spend at least a little bit of time considering the fact that some men and women around the country gave their lives while doing their duty so that we all could remain continue living in a democratic nation “... dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Memorial Day. A day to remember the fallen.

That’s it. Full stop.