If you take your cues from Facebook ads and TV commercials, you might think that Memorial Day is all about last-minute sales and buy-one get-one shopping deals. For many of our children, raised in the era of social media and non-stop advertising, Memorial Day has become defined by consumerism.
But Memorial Day means much more.
This day is about the young Americans who never made it past the beaches at Normandy. It’s about the heroes who were lost in the jungles of Vietnam. It’s about the brave men and women who answered the call and never came home from places like Baghdad, Ramadi, and the mountains of Afghanistan. Memorial Day is about the brothers, mothers, fathers, and daughters whose headstones line the hills of Arlington National Cemetery.
Memorial Day is not about money saved or spent. It is about the steep price of freedom.
In 1861, a soldier named Sullivan Ballou felt called to serve his country. He wrote to his young wife:
“My very dear Sarah: The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days — perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more …
“I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing — perfectly willing — to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt … “
Ballou was killed in the first days of the Civil War. His sense of duty is the same one that has driven generations of men and women to serve — and to lay down their lives to defend our country.
Memorial Day is a time to honor the fallen.
We can honor them with our actions. We can carry on the legacy of our war dead by teaching our children the importance of their sacrifice. We can walk with our children through a veterans cemetery or explain the importance of a Memorial Day ceremony. Let’s pass on to them a respect and reverence for our fallen heroes. This Memorial Day, let’s take the time to teach our children, and remind ourselves, that freedom has a price.
Dan McCready is a former captain in the United States Marine Corps and is the Democratic nominee for U.S. Congress in the 9th District.