I was reminded by Gold Star sister and contributor Cheyenne McCollum* that Memorial Day weekend is a time of grieving for the families of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
It’s hard for Gold Star families to hear people wish each other a “Happy Memorial Day” and focus on enjoying parties and the day off work. I wrote about this problem last year (HERE) but didn’t offer any solutions.
So, what can we say instead of “Happy Memorial Day”? What are polite and natural phrases to steer people to remember the purpose of this holiday?
Click below to leave your ideas in the comment, which I opened to everyone for this group effort:
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These are the only options for cakes this weekend at Whole Foods
*Cheyenne’s brother, Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, was one of the 13 service members killed in August 2021 during the evacuation of Afghanistan.
As a Marine combat veteran, who also served as a CACO (Casualty Assistance Call Officer) part of the three man team who calls on/notifies the families of service members killed in the line of duty (which is undoubtedly one of the hardest jobs you can do, but also one of the most important) my personal expression in this regards is “have a very special and meaningful Memorial Day”🇺🇸🌟
Miss Miller, this is an excellent topic. (It is rather like the question of referring to Good Friday.) I have observed Memorial Day in various locations --- always in a somber way. The most memorable was at the Presidio in San Francisco. I have never been to a "Memorial Day Party or Picnic" that I can recall.
Whether speaking with people who have lost family members in war, or with any Citizen, I say something like, "This is a day for solemn remembrance; I hope it is a fruitful opportunity for us both to reflect on the cost of being a Citizen."
Many people are searching for short, and sometimes cheap, tools for communicating. Thus, the propensity for nicknames, slang, acronyms and abbreviations. But a day that demands thought and contemplation should be referred to in ways that involve full sentences. We need sometimes to slow down and just think --- and we need to connect our emotions to thought and to inform our inner life about what emotions to have.
For Gold Star families, just simple, heartfelt remembrances are all that’s needed. Whether the individual actually knew your fallen loved one or not, they are acknowledging your loved one’s service and sacrifice as well as the family’s ongoing sacrifice. Things like:
- “I’m thinking of you and your family this Memorial Day”
- “I’m grateful for your hero’s defense of our country”
As a general greeting to other citizens or even veterans, the best I’ve heard is “May you have a meaningful Memorial Day”. Hopefully that encourages all to take time amidst the broader holiday atmosphere to consider what “Memorial Day” is actually meant to remember.
Have a Blessed Memorial Day.
Happy Remembrance Day sounds appreciate and considerate to me.
Went to a rememberence at a Louisiana state-level V.A. nursing home, complete with 21-gun salute. Met many incredible vets today, including a bright and articulate 95-year-old named Mr. Joe, who served in the Pacific theater of WWII on a Navy submarine. He was enjoying the event and recognition from everyone present.
Give Thanks and Honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
I tend to be pretty sensitive to this, because my family in the last 150 years has lost no one who served. It makes me acutely aware of those who have.
I just tell people to remember what the holiday is for.
I never say to have it happy, when so many have paid the ultimate price through the years because of politicians failure to maintain peace, or the actions of monsters.
If someone wishes me 'happy', I reply 'Give thanks for those veterans who died for your holiday'.
Unfortunately I haven't any appropriate solutions. However, you could consider thanking the family for their lending their Patriot for the service to the nation.
"A day of rememberance, not of celebration."
Perfectly summed up right there.
As a 28-year veteran who’s lost several friends and acquaintances, Memorial Day is a special day of reflection for me. But it’s also a private day of reflection, because those comrades-in-arms are often in my thoughts these days. And because I don’t know how a person regards Memorial Day, I don’t judge them for going to the beach, having a cookout, enjoying an extra day off of work. They may have taken a moment to reflect on the sacrifices of those who gave them the freedom to enjoy those things, so if someone said, “Happy Memorial Day” to me, I would respond, “Thank you. And remember.”
I cannot honestly recall anyone saying "Happy Memorial Day".
It's a day of remembrance. It's not a day of celebration.
It's Memorial Day. Remember the fallen.
Frankly, if saying that offends someone, they can just politely go to Hell.
One word. Honor. People will either understand it or they won't.
I've never had anyone say to me "Happy Memorial Day!" Don't encounter such ignorance, thank goodness.
This is a long post, but it explains Memorial Day much better than I could or did. It was written by a student applying for a scholarship from a group I’m a member of, the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association.
Memorial Day | 29 May 2023
Today we honor and remember the warriors who gave all. We pay tribute to the veterans who selflessly sacrificed their time, their safety, and their lives to protect the freedoms we hold dear. We express our deepest gratitude and our commitment to ensuring that their sacrifices are never forgotten. As we gather with family and friends on this Memorial Day, let us remember the true meaning behind this day and reflect upon the profound debt of gratitude we owe to those who gave all. May we always remember and honor the memory of our fallen heroes.
As part of the 2023 Scholarship Grant application process, students composed essays in response to the question 'what does Memorial Day mean to you?' The following essay was written by Patrick Oakden, 2023 Scholarship Grant recipient and senior at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
"Memorial Day isn’t about those serving or who have served; it’s not about telling them “thank you for your service.” It’s about those who didn’t come home and those 22 a day who take their lives. “War is only over for the dead,” and those of us fortunate enough to live in freedom should never forget!bThese are some things to think about on Memorial Day, and they represent how vital Memorial Day is to the everyday American, including myself.
First, the men & women we recognize and honor today aren’t the ones who “lost” their lives -- not like one loses their car keys. They didn’t misplace it accidentally or happenstantially ended up without it. No; they knew what they were doing. They purposefully gave up their lives as a sacrifice for you and for me. Their lives were willingly sacrificed for us; they were not “lost.
Second, this isn’t Veterans’ Day, and no one should confuse the two. The distinction between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day is absolutely important. Using the same old platitudes that will be reused on every other “Patriotic Holiday,” like Independence Day or Veteran’s Day, dilutes what Memorial Day is all about -- the fallen. To your average veteran and their families, remembering them, the fallen, is extremely important. “All gave some, and some gave all” isn’t cliché. The American people need to know the price that has been paid for their freedom because it honors the service of those who are no longer with us. Yet, it also gives us confidence that a knowing and astute public will be far less likely to put military force to use in their frivolous matters. By reflecting on the true nature of Memorial Day, an average civilian can show that they truly comprehend the heart of military sacrifice. They can show that they care and that they won’t allow their elected officials to misuse that devotion. They can tell their elected officials, “No, it isn’t Veteran’s Day,” and “Yes, it matters!”
Third and finally, the best way to honor Memorial Day and the fallen who are remembered because of it is to simply do your civic duty. The men and women who died for our freedom did their job to the absolute fullest; it’s only right that you do your job. Everyone in the United States of America should be an educated voter. They should make an effort to understand the political issues being discussed, and they should be able to articulate the “why” behind their political opinions, whatever and regardless of what they may be. Everyone in the United States has a civic duty. If the average American truly wants to honor the fallen heroes and the entire meaning of Memorial Day, I would encourage all of them to please: forgo the yellow ribbon, the patriotic garb, and everything else just for show. Instead, do your duty. When it’s time to go to the polls, regardless of whether it’s in your local elections or state/national government, please remember the ones who can no longer vote. They gave their lives so you can."
Have a memorable weekend. Short, concise and easy to say.
I was at Whole Foods and the cakes are all decorated with “Happy Memorial Day.” I put a photo of it in the post above. How do we educate companies on the meaning of the holiday?