The most somber of our national holidays, Memorial Day has changed dramatically over the years. Initially established to memorialize those who made the ultimate sacrifice by dying in war, the holiday has been watered down and has morphed into a summertime harbinger with pools opening, beach visits, cookouts heating up and relaxation with a beer and a hot dog the common scene. Gone are the big parades, visits to war memorials and gravesites and flag waving of yesteryear. I can remember parades with marching bands traveling from schools to gravesites and memorial services and much more public participation in Memorial Day activities than I have witnessed in the past decade or so. I think it is time to return to the original traditions of this special day. This year especially — with stores that have been on lockdown opening back up and parks and trails that have been shuttered again inviting hikers and visitors — Memorial Day not only means the beginning of summer but a time to mourn those who have died in the service of our country in fighting COVID-19.
I bet the parks will be overflowing, the beaches swarming and backyards smoking with grills fired up. I doubt much will be happening in most circles to celebrate those who have lost their lives fighting enemies seen and unseen. I plan to take the time to sit and remember those before me who fought to make this nation a special spot on the planet where freedom is the watchword and liberty is our badge of honor. Sacrifice and hardship by those before us and those fighting and risking and sometimes losing their lives now mean we can have those barbecues and enjoy those parks, and we need to remember them.
The novel coronavirus has made another set of heroes of our first responders, medical personnel, front line workers, food producers, truckers, government advisors working in our best interest and a host of others who have worked long and hard to keep us safe and establish guidelines for our health during this horrible pandemic. Many of them are still working ceaselessly in the fight against this invisible opponent. We need to honor and support them. Some have lost their own lives against this virus even while trying to keep others alive and well. We need to honor and memorialize them.
Though I have many in my own family before me who fought overseas and even here in the United States to keep us free, none lost their lives. Several lost and sacrificed much physically, psychologically and emotionally, however, and I plan to memorialize their losses of “brothers” in the wars they fought and the losses of limbs and psychological health in some cases. My brother served in the Gulf War. My father served in the Cold War. An uncle served in World War II. My great grandfather served in the Civil War. My great-great grandfather served in the War of 1812. His father served in the Revolutionary War. I will honor all.
You may not personally know anyone who lost their life in war, but some of your ancestors, some of your neighbors and most definitely some of your brothers and sisters in the nation have made the ultimate sacrifice. In between the beer and the hot dog or the dip in the pool or walk in the park, we need to bow our heads and give thanks for their sacrifice. In every war, in every fray, in every fight that is sparked to keep us free and safe and healthy and able to pursue happiness, someone gave his or her life to make this nation the best on the planet. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart. And to the families left behind, thank you. Your pain and your sacrifice does not go unnoticed.
I hope that all that read this enjoy your Memorial Day weekend and stay safe and happy.
Becky Nelson is co-owner of Beaver Pond Farm in Newport, New Hampshire. You can contact her through the farm page on Facebook and Instagram, visit the retail store or email her at email@example.com.