Memorial Day has become the official launch of the commercial days of summer. We begin traveling and various other warm weather activities that we’ve been precluded from doing because of seasonal restrictions.

And Memorial Day is now a three-day holiday, with an avalanche of clever marketing initiatives designed to tap into our financial resources, and this irks me. Maybe we should call it what it has become, Marketing Day.

What are we memorializing — or who? It’s a holiday weekend, and many families will be on a three-day vacation, others may be catching up on procrastinated tasks that have been piling up, and few would argue that the original meaning of the holiday has been lost because of the overly-commercialized nature of it. I tend to agree, the original meaning of Memorial Day has been drowned in a sea of overwhelming hedonism that has overtaken our nation. We spend precious few moments honoring our fallen heroes and focus most of our holiday time on self indulgence.

Evolving Memorial Day to a three-day holiday is in sync with the national mood, and politicians can justifiably take credit for giving us more time off so we can go shopping to support the economy. Young men and women dying in war zones isn’t a pleasant discussion at the picnic table, and the majority of Americans don’t feel a strong link to the war unless they have a relative or close friend involved in it.

The change is unfortunate and it’s personal with me and millions of other veterans; it should be for most Americans. It reflects an attitude in our country that denigrates the sacrifices made by those who have served in our Armed Forces. We, in the Western World, often take for granted the lifestyle and freedom we enjoy. We need to take some time on Memorial Day to remember why we have this freedom and those responsible for giving it to us.

While cities and communities across the nation continue to remember and observe the holiday with ceremonies that include prayers, speeches, singing “The Star Spangled Banner,” and the playing of “Taps,” Memorial Day isn’t a day of mourning but rather a day of celebration of those who made this holiday possible, our fallen heroes. It’s a day to offer our respect for the dead, a day to thank them for what they’ve given us. Without their sacrifices we probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to celebrate Memorial Day or experience the open and free lifestyle of our western civilization. Pause for a moment and think about what your life might be like if world events had turned out another way, consider where you might be today, and what you might be doing if it weren’t for our fallen heroes.

It’s OK to have fun on this Memorial Day weekend, but please remember what and whom the holiday is really for. We, as Americans, have a lot to be grateful for, and showing that gratitude every year on Memorial Day won’t detract from our planned activities. In fact, it will most likely add some heartfelt meaning to them.

I’m aware that many Americans do hold this holiday in great reverence and are involved in various forms of tributes honoring our fallen heroes, and I sincerely hope most of us have the courage to comprehend and remember that living in freedom does come with a price, often the price of life.

Enjoy your Memorial Day, my fellow Americans.

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