We have always enjoyed Memorial Day as a family. When we lived closer to our relatives, it was always a big day for grilling, eating, playing, and laughing. Pictures of the kids growing up over the years in my parents’ backyard, playing games with their cousins while the adults talk and reminisce about days gone by always flood my Timehop this time of year.
We play our “July 4th” playlist over every Alexa in the house—a mix of patriotic songs, Americana (from a Readers Digest collection my parents bought in 1976 for the Bicentennial), stirring film scores, and yes, music from the Disney Parks. We put up a few flags and red, white, and blue decorations, and wear appropriate colors.
There’s joy in planning the meal and the drinks. We grill hamburgers and eat chips and baked beans and add a salad of some sort to fill healthier. Drinks are enjoyed and Coca-Cola is iced and ready for the kids, because nothing says “America” like having a Coke and a smile.
But there’s more to the day than just laughter and food and the unofficial kickoff to summer. Every year our family gets in the minivan and drives to the closest National Cemetery. Because we know today is a day to honor true heroes whose sacrifice makes our laughter and grilling and drinking and way of life possible. We want our kids to never forget that Memorial Day is a day to remember.
Both Robyn and I have fathers who served in the Navy. Today is not about them, although I’m incredibly grateful for their service. Today is also not about the men and women currently serving in our armed forces. Today is all about those who died serving in our country. Since 1776, when the first minuteman died at the Battle of Lexington and Concord, heroic men and women have given their lives for the cause of liberty and freedom here at home and around the world. So today is all about them.
Congress passed a law a few years ago calling for every American citizen to pause at 3 pm their local time and take a moment of silence. In that quiet moment, the hope is that the entire nation will stop and actually memorialize what Memorial Day is truly about.
Even in this crazy year, the National Cemeteries are open. Put the family in the car and pay a visit and your respects. Teach the family to take even just a moment and do what Abraham Lincoln encouraged in his unforgettable speech at Gettysburg in the midst of the Civil War:
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Happy Memorial Day. And thank you, heroes. Today, we are thankful and we will remember.