A Tip on Celebrating Memorial Day

With Memorial Day coming up, I wanted to say a few words that I feel are important. Words that may help us properly respect and thank our fallen soldiers for their service. A guide, perhaps, as to what our hearts should be telling us amid the festivities.

Memorial Day is the day we come together as a country and give a collective, “Thank You,” to all those who gave their lives in the service of their country. Those who died defending themselves, their fellow soldiers, and the rights and freedoms of not just their countrymen, but of people they would never meet. It is a time of quiet reflection, of solemn remembrance, and a time of over-flowing gratitude.

We drink, we barbecue, and we have picnics and watch parades. We celebrate the freedoms that have been provided to us by those who have stormed the bloody beaches, those who have stood vigilant and fought valiantly from a foxhole, those who have charged into a room knowing they would have to take a life or with knowing that they would probably lose their own. We honor those who fought as though they were possessed by the very spirit of combat; whirling dervishes of bravery, valiantly charging forward and bringing the fight to the enemy before being struck down. We honor those who were never given the opportunity to fire their weapon, cut down by an unseen enemy, perhaps still with thoughts of home in their minds. In our eyes, every last one of them, our brave dead, our fallen heroes, are equal.

We celebrate to honor individuals we will never know, people we may not normally consider our heroes. We honor whites, blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, Christians, Catholics, and Muslims, Jewish, atheists, agnostics, straight people and gay people alike. Yes, people of every possible race, religion, and sexual orientation have fought and died for this country of ours and the freedoms of its people. Though you may not agree with their beliefs, their sexual orientation, and though you may hold biases against people of their skin color, they have gone to that ragged edge of fear, gritted their teeth in resolve, and moved forward. They did this for their country, for their comrades, for your rights and freedoms.

Now I’d like to make my point. This missive is not intended to convince you to change your biases on those of different skin colors, though I hope it provides you a window to see that all people should be viewed as a result of their own personal actions and decisions, not something outside of their control like the color of their skin. I hope it softens your bias or your hatred to know that someone of a color other than that which matches yours has fought and died to protect his fellow soldiers and the freedoms that you enjoy.

This missive is not intended to convince you to change your views on religious beliefs other than your own, though I hope it helps you to understand that those who believe in any god or no god at all are similar to you in that they have formed a belief based on what their lives have shown them and that regardless of whether or not their belief coincided with yours, they either laid their beliefs aside or were strengthened by those beliefs to provide and protect your freedom to think the way you choose regarding your soul.

This missive is not intended to convince you to change your views on gay rights, though I hope it helps you understand that gays have served in the military throughout history, they have fought and died for this country just as any other soldier has fought and died. They have braved horrifying situations, they have fought valiantly in the face of overwhelming danger, and they have fallen in battle. The only possible dishonor they brought upon themselves or their country is that they were forced to lie about their sexual orientation in order to serve their country, service that many cannot claim they were able to do, whatever their sexual orientation. Any shame they may have felt for the lie they were forced to live is all of ours to bear, for those individuals were not a liability to their units or their country. We were a liability to them and their ability to serve the country they love.

This Memorial Day, as you celebrate the sacrifices made by our servicemen and women, please soften your hearts just a bit. Try to understand that just as our fallen heroes are equal in our eyes, their beliefs should not make them unequal in your heart. Try to be more accepting of those who are different than you who laid their lives on the line for your freedom and for your country. Try to remove the selfishness out of your patriotism and make it pure by being thankful to all servicemen and women, regardless of whether or not you hold biases against those with the same skin tone, disagree with the beliefs they held, or disagree with how they lived their lives. I ask you to be an American.

Thank you.