A Confusion of Holidays

I hope that everyone had a fabulous 3-day weekend.  My family and I made the long drive to our hometown for the weekend to visit family. That is the longest drive ever! Technically, it should take us about 8 hours, but it ended up being about an 11-hour drive both ways.  Being in the car for that long even with a few short breaks is miserable! I know many of you used this long weekend to kick off summer.  I saw pictures of pool parties, boat rides, and barbeques all over my Facebook and Instagram feeds. Many people associate the beginning of summer with Memorial Day because that is around the time that many schools get out for the summer break and pools open and such.  While I agree that it marks the beginning of summer, I would have to also remind everyone about the true meaning and reason behind Memorial Day. While I am doing that, I might as well go ahead and make a distinction between Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day, and Independence Day.  As a military wife, I feel that it is important to note the differences in what these 3 holidays represent.  Yes, they are all times when we feel patriotic and grateful for our country, our freedoms, and our military; but each day is meant to represent something different.  I will admit that when I was younger, I didn’t really fully understand the difference.

Memorial Day is the one day a year that we set aside to honor all of the men and women that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  These are the mean and women that lost their lives while fighting for our freedom and safety.  Many people confuse this and think it is also a day to celebrate our military members and thank them for their service, but that is not what this day represents. That is an important distinction to note.  It is not about those who have served or who are currently serving. It is about remembering and honoring those that died while serving in the US Armed Forces. I would guess that most of you know of someone that has lost their life while protecting our country and our rights. It may be a distant relative or a grandparent you never met who died in battle years ago, or it could be a brother or friend who has lost their life in recent years in the war against terror.  Whoever it may be, we have likely all been touched by the life lost.  Memorial Day is the day to honor those people, to pray for their families that miss them deeply, to reflect on their lives and the sacrifice they made, and to just simply remember them.  Memorial Day was initially called Decoration Day in the south and was set aside as a day to decorate the graves of those who had died.  The hope was that America would be full of flowers and flags on this day. Many people still visit the graves of those that lost their lives on this day and decorate their grave. 

Veterans’ Day, on the other hand, is the time when you honor the men and women who have served in one branch of the military. This includes those who have served in the Navy, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard, and Marines.  It doesn’t matter how long or short they served.  If they only spent one day as a member of our armed forces, we should honor them for committing to serve and protect our freedom. By signing that paper and taking that oath, no matter what branch, they committed themselves to possibly pay that ultimate price.  They are the ones that were willing to die for our country.  Because of that, we honor them on Veterans’ Day. 

Now you may be thinking, what about those that are currently serving.   I assure you those people have a special day as well.  It is a much smaller holiday and one that isn’t characterized by a day off of work or parties and is one that many forget or don’t even know about.  Armed Forces Day is the day set aside to honor those that are actively serving in the US military. It also occurs in May and is typically the third Saturday in the month. While this holiday is not observed or recognized like it should be, it is important that we have a day to thank those men and women who are actively out there fighting for us. We, as a country, should make this a more prominent holiday! May is also considered Military Appreciation month and includes Memorial Day (honoring those who have died), Armed Forces Day (honoring those who currently serve), and Military Spouse Appreciation Day (honoring the spouses of those who serve).  Through all of these holidays, we honor every member who has served, is serving, supports someone who serves, and those who died serving.  

Moving on to Independence Day…this day is not about our military at all.  This is the day that we celebrate the Declaration of Independence.  It is the day that we celebrate America.  It is the day we commemorate the proclamation of our independence from Great Britain back in 1776.  This day is also spent much like Memorial Day with pool parties and barbeques.  It is the day when we see glorious firework displays. It is the day we celebrate our freedom and our love for our great country.  

As a military spouse, I personally feel like we should celebrate our military every day.  These men and women sacrifice so much to serve our country. They spend years apart from their loved ones and put their lives in danger over and over again all to keep us safe and secure in our little homes.  However, I do think it is important to know the significance of each of the holidays so you know who and what to honor on those days.  When you are out swimming or cooking on the grill, take a moment to remember or thank those who made it possible for you to have that party.  Say a little prayer for all of the service members alive or dead and their families. Remember, reflect, and rejoice. Remember those we have lost. Reflect on those who are committed to fighting for us. Rejoice in those that came home to be with their loved ones.


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