Over the years, Memorial Day has become the unofficial launch party for the upcoming summer. Beaches and backyards are filled with frolicking and barbeques. There are sales galore for all the shoppers out there. To top it off, many of us get an extra day off from work to relax and have some fun. It’s certainly a long weekend that’s always much anticipated and enjoyed.
Of course, the origins of this American holiday are much more somber. Originally known as Decoration Day, it began in the years following the Civil War as an observance of the insurmountable lives lost, and it became an official federal holiday (and three-day weekend) in 1971. In the history of our country, we have lost more than 1.3 million soldiers during wartime. Countless others have died in other ways due to service-related accidents, illnesses, addictions, or suicides.
Whether they fell in battle or not, they are all heroes. Joseph Campbell defines a hero as “someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” What can be bigger than the great love these men and women had for their families, their friends, and their countrymen? There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another. Period.
That’s why our reflection every Memorial Day is whether our lives measure up to that ultimate gift of love that so many American soldiers made for us in the past (and continue to make). What rings in our ears is that famous line in the epic film, “Saving Private Ryan,” where a dying Captain Miller says to Private Ryan: “Earn this.”
While the vast majority of those who’ve died are otherwise anonymous to us, their sacrifices remain very personal. We owe them all an immeasurable debt of gratitude and honor that debt by doing something to “earn it” every day.
This weekend reserve some time to reflect on the generations of lives lost and how it’s made an impact in your life. Perhaps there was a family member, friend, or acquaintance you knew who you can share stories about. You may decide to attend a Memorial Day service, visit a cemetery, light a candle in church, or have a quiet moment of prayer or silence. Whatever you choose to do, find some special way to honor those in our nation’s military who made the ultimate sacrifice for all of us.
In addition, be sure to revel in the fun of a long weekend and connecting with family and friends. Enjoying the freedoms that others gave their lives to preserve honors their sacrifice, too.
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Kevin Snyder is a husband, father, and an Orange County estate planning attorney and elder law attorney. He is all about family and has a passion for educating his community. He enjoys helping people protect what matters most and inspiring them to be the best versions of themselves they can be.