[picture compliments of bing.com]
When I first moved to Chicago, I was quite confused about this particular holiday. Even now it still brings a bit of misunderstanding on my part. I have people wishing me a, “Happy Memorial Day”. To me, this seems rather ironic, since the day is about paying homage to those extremely brave men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice in duty to their country.
I was told that Memorial Day is all of that which I just noted; however, I guess the “Happy” part is that it also encompasses the start of the Summer season. I mean this with all my heart when I say I am not trying to judge this dichotomy of today; nonetheless, I still find myself focusing more on those that have made the ultimate sacrifice to their country.
I have asked many Americans the difference between Memorial Day (today) and Veterans Day. Veterans Day and Remembrance Day (November 11th) are the same day in both the United States and Canada. Interestingly enough, many people have had a difficult time explaining the meaning of both. However, I think what I have finally deduced is that Memorial Day represents those we have lost while they are serving their country. Veterans Day is the day to honor those who have served (or are serving) in the military. In Canada, Remembrance Day serves as both holidays rolled into one day.
I have a very strong connection with the Canadian military on many levels. Both of my brothers served in the Canadian Armed Forces. My grandfather fought in WWII for the entire duration; he was overseas for approximately five years. I have lived on military bases, and I have worked on military bases. My respect for those that serve in any military shows no bounds. When you have the opportunity to meet some of these amazing souls, it brings with it a silent bowing of one’s head, a prayer or gentle thought of respect and gratitude. I have met some incredible American military soldiers as well; equally, they are dedicated to the preservation of their country and feel passionately about this to their very core.
Many years ago I participated in the graduating ceremonies at a university. This particular ceremony had taken on deep and meaningful emotions for me. Receiving a degree was the young wife of a Canadian soldier who had just been killed while on duty in Afghanistan. He had been one or two credits short of completing his degree; the university presented his young widow with a Posthumous Degree for her fallen husband. Try as I might, I could not hold back the tears watching this young lady step up onto the stage and reach out to receive the formal degree certificate. There were many members of the soldier’s unit in attendance; I glanced over at them, wishing so badly I could take the pain away from each one of them. I wondered how they were feeling; were they wondering, ‘why him and not me?’.
After the ceremony I had the opportunity to meet this young widow. Unless you have experienced standing in front of someone so young that has lost their spouse to combat, it cannot be easily explained. I reached out to give her a hug, telling her that the entire university was so proud of her husband, and of her for accepting this award for him. Her eyes told many stories. I kept it together at that moment until she left and then I literally broke down in tears. I had to leave the area because I could not control my emotions. I think it had a lot to do with her loss, and the feelings of honor I have for those I personally have known who have served in the military.
Thank you to all the men and women who have served their country around the world; bless you for your commitment and sacrifice.
[photo courtesy of destateparks.com]