Who is Memorial Day For?

Author: Bonnie Carroll

Who is Memorial Day for? It's for all of us. It's for all Americans to remember we enjoy our many freedoms because of a brave few who dedicated their lives to this country and who died much too soon from wounds seen and unseen.

Child at Gravestone

Many are easily confused by the various holidays honoring military service members. There's a day for those who have served (Veterans Day), one for those who are currently serving (Armed Forces Day), and one for those who died in service (Memorial Day). Add to that an array of military branch birthdays, Flag Day, and Independence Day and it seems our country has an abundance of opportunities to appreciate all who contribute to keeping our nation free and secure. This was not always the case for previous generations and many heroes went to their graves unmarked and unnoticed by history.

What a blessing then to have so many forums to express our gratitude. What a gift that in a country where less than one half of one percent of the population serve, such a small percentage has still produced so many heroes to celebrate and honor. This is what makes America "the last best hope of earth," in the words of President Abraham Lincoln. 

Arlington Cemetery

This weekend begins another opportunity for gratitude. Memorial Day attests to the world how we as a nation honor the men and women who pledge their lives to protect Americans against all enemies, foreign and domestic. It is a holiday that asks us to remember not just the lost heroes, but also the families they leave behind. Across this nation there are parents, spouses, fianc├ęs, children, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and grandparents whose entire family unit was irrevocably changed by a knock on the door from a casualty notification officer.

Where one service member stood up for his or her country, at least 11 family members stood up in support of that hero. For them, Memorial Day is every day. For them, every holiday weekend, every tradition, every barbecue will be filled by the palpable absence of a precious loved one. But also, it's a reminder of their hero's life and legacy.

For the families of the fallen, we will mark this Memorial Day with pride, remembrance, and celebration. We are honored to be the living legacies of such amazing, selfless souls. We will share their names, their photos, and their stories proudly all weekend long, for all to know them as we know them. For the rest of the country, you are asked only for a single moment out of three days to reflect and remember that every action, every liberty, and every joy of your weekend was made possible, not simply because our fallen heroes died, but because such heroes lived.

So who is Memorial Day for? It's for every one of us who needs to remember and for those of us who will never forget.

Bonnie Carroll, President and Founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors