What Memorial Day Really Means

Author: Toni Gross

With Memorial Day approaching, I want to share my personal experience, if it is worth anything.

We Gold Star Mothers were asked by the veterans in leadership to lay a wreath at a Veterans Day ceremony here in the Tampa Bay area two years ago. We happily obliged. Not long after the holiday, a Blue Star Mother called me to inform me that veterans should have laid the wreath that day, she was kind in her tone of speech and not mean-spirited. I listened carefully to what she had to say; she clearly explained to me the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. She stated that when a veteran or anyone asks us to speak or lay a wreath at a Veterans Day ceremony we should kindly suggest that a veteran be invited to do so instead and to graciously explain why. She stated that Veterans Day is a day to honor the service of the living, the veterans in attendance.

Toni Gross

As a result of the conversation with the Blue Star Mother, I am well aware of the difference between the two holidays.

My father was a 29-year naval career man and my son, Army Cpl. Frank R. Gross, was killed in action in Operation Enduring Freedom. I highly honor and respect our local veterans. I volunteer weekly at the Spinal Cord Injury Unit at James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa, and at the Fisher House, also on the Haley campus, as well as at the USO at Tampa International Airport. I am also a VA Voluntary Services Deputy. 

At Memorial Day ceremonies, now, I listen with interest when the keynote speakers are decorated veterans who speak about their service to our nation. Their presentations are excellent, yet this is a day to honor the fallen. I continue to receive invitations to attend Memorial Day ceremonies featuring the keynote speaker who will be a veteran who will be speaking about their service. I will sometimes respond with grace to the sender, explaining the difference between the two special days and gladly accept the invitation to attend the ceremony.

Photo Courtesy of Toni Gross, Surviving mother of Cpl. Frank R. Gross