There’s been a lot of online chatter this year about the conflation of Memorial Day and Veterans Day. This is the kind of thing that keeps me on social media when I’m ready to rage-quit Facebook and Twitter: occasionally I learn something.
In the past week as I’ve read articles, status updates, and blogs about Memorial Day, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how straight-up lucky my family has been. We have a rich history of military service.
My 4th great-grandfather, John Finton, fought in the Revolutionary War. He did not die in that war.
My 2nd great-grandfather, Ernest A. Fenton, fought in the Civil War. He did not die in that war.
My grandfather, Lee Fenton, and my grandmother, Elaine Gindich, both fought in World War II. They did not die in that war.
My father fought in the Cold War. He did not die in that war.
I’ve done quite a bit of digging around the roots and branches of my family tree, and as far as I can tell, my people fight in wars but don’t die in them. It wasn’t until I read Eric Schlosser’s book “Command and Control,” that I even realized just how dangerous my dad’s career in the Air Force was.
I’ve spent this weekend confronting my family’s luck in military service as I’ve pondered why we observe Memorial Day. I am proud of my family’s military service, and grateful that they lived beyond the conflicts in which they were engaged. Too many were not as lucky–and that is what today is for.
I’ve read a little about how Israel celebrates their Memorial Day. It is somber. Places of entertainment are closed. Television and radio programming tells stories of those who died protecting Israel. Sirens blare twice during the day, at which point citizens observe moments of silence.
This Memorial Day, I took time to think about those who were not as lucky as my family members. Jake Tapper, a journalist for CNN, spends his Memorial Day weekend tweeting photos, gravestones, and stories of soldiers who have died fighting to protect America. It’s sobering to flip through my Twitter feed all weekend and go from NBA gifs, political acrimony, and flippant commentary about summer movies to a photo of a private, sergeant, lance corporal, captain, or colonel who died in combat.
My heart breaks for those who have lost loved ones and friends to war. Today is for them, for us to help them through their grief by acknowledging their loss, by recognizing not only the sacrifice of those who died, but also the tangential sacrifice of those who have to find a way to live without their loved ones.
Take a moment of silence today to think on or pray for those who have died in military service. That is what Memorial Day is for.