What does Memorial Day mean to you?

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Dean Abbott
  • 4th Logistics Readiness Squadron
Without looking up the true reason why we celebrate "Memorial Day" here in the United States, what do you think about when the holiday rolls around?

Many thoughts and mental images run through my mind when I hear the words "Memorial Day," and honestly they don't truly represent the holiday or why it was established.

Originally, what we now know as Memorial Day was called "Decoration Day." This holiday was created solely to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War.

As time has gone on, our country has undergone vast change. The men and women of our great country have fought in many wars, campaigns and operations. Since then, the holiday we now know as Memorial Day has expanded its commemoration to honor men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces and protecting our countries interests and beliefs.

Memorial Day is now observed every year on the final Monday of May.

So now that you have had a chance to think for a minute, back to my earlier question. Do your thoughts and mental images change when hearing the words "Memorial Day?" Do the thoughts that you and your family and friends are celebrating the holiday exactly match its true intent? I doubt it!

When I was talking with people about what Memorial Day meant to them, you could see them swell with pride when speaking about their brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, grandparents and even family friends that had served before them. I also heard about family heritages that consumed four or even five generations of military service culminating in awards of valor and heroism. So, because these descriptions that filled people with pride don't really meet the intent of the holiday, does that mean they are not fitting for the occasion? Again, I don't think so!

I do think above all on Memorial Day we should first pay a solemn tribute to all those that have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in our country's military, while making it the most powerful one our world has ever known. However, I also believe that there is room for thoughts and prayers for others that have served in our military and are "memorialized" in our hearts and minds because of who they were and what they have done for us and our country.

I instantly think of my Grandfather flying in the back of a B-17 during World War II. As a waist gunner, tail gunner and radio operator he earned the Purple Heart after being shot by enemy aircraft while participating in a bombing mission into Germany out of England. His stories of various missions he flew in, as well as black and white pictures (taken from an old shoe box) of airplanes and nose art on the old B-17s still have a place in my heart and mind, although my Grandfather is not with us any longer.

One thing that I have found for sure to be true over my 29 1/2 years of service in the Air Force and 49 years of life on this earth, is that most of the people that have done the greatest things you could ever imagine will not speak of them unless asked about them.

Take or make time to sit down with those special people in your lives and ask about their experiences, or even experiences that have been passed along to them over the years. You might find that some of your closest friends or family members are true heroes who can tell you about those that made the ultimate sacrifice in almost unimaginable circumstances. To me, that's why we celebrate Memorial Day.

So, on Memorial Day celebrate and pay tribute to those that gave their lives to defend our country, but also make it a day to memorialize those friends and family members that hold a special place in your hearts and minds. Make it most meaningful to you and your family, by telling and sharing stories and passing them to the next generations, as it is our countries heritage as well as your family's.

Remember, you will never get answers to questions that are never asked. May you all have a blessed Memorial Day!