Arlington National Cemetery

Yesterday in the United States was Memorial Day, a holiday to honor and mourn members of the U.S. military who died while performing their duties. In one form or another the holiday has been celebrated since the 19th Century on various dates, though for the last fifty years it has taken place on the last weekend in May. Some few other nations have a form of Memorial Day on other dates, sometimes to honor those of military service and sometimes to remember those of national tragedies, but in the U.S. Memorial Day is a day specifically in which citizens go to cemeteries or graveyards and memorials to leave flowers or otherwise recall family members and others who fell during their military service.

For better or worse in the U.S., Memorial Day has also become a three-day weekend in which a lot of people take off to the beach or the mountains, cook out in the backyard, and maybe swig a few brewskies. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of that, because we all need to wind down from time to time. However, when turning those burgers over charcoal or tossing back a few beers, we should recall those who gave all so we could have the freedom to fire up that grill or crack open that bottle. Not everyone is free to enjoy such simple pleasures. But we Americans are.

We should be thankful for that. And we should be thankful for those in uniform who stand as a shield against the darkest elements that can be thrown at us. Without them, without those who gave of themselves in the past and without those who stand stalwart today, we might very well be a nation without freedom.

Remember that next Memorial Day, and every day between now and then.