Opinion: Over 20,000 NJ War Dead – Let’s Stop With ‘Happy Memorial Day’
Look, I’m far from perfect. And I don’t want to come off as preachy. Like most, I don’t always speak perfect English. I will end sentences with prepositions. I don’t mean to come off as pedantic. But can we stop wishing people a "Happy Memorial Day?"
In World War II alone more than 10,000 people from New Jersey lost their lives. In World War I it was over 5,000. We have had greater than 20,000 New Jerseyans give up their lives in American wars for our freedoms and our way of life. And I am nothing in the shadow of these men and women. I will never do anything nearly as important.
What I can do is be grateful and do my best to remember. That’s what Memorial Day is for. Veterans Day is to honor everyone who served. And they also have our undying respect. But Memorial Day is specifically set aside to honor those who paid the ultimate price and did not come home. Our nation's war dead.
I completely understand that it has turned into a fun time with that extra day off and more time to spend with your family and friends. I get it. You work hard, in fact in an abusively expensive state like New Jersey, too hard. You deserve a break. And I’m not trying to say people shouldn’t enjoy going to the shore on Memorial Day weekend or have a cookout or have a good time. All I’m saying is just for at least a few moments on Monday we should truly remember what this day is about.
I know people mean absolutely no harm when they wish each other a "Happy Memorial Day." But it’s always made me cringe. You may think I’m being dramatic and I’m sorry, but it’s how I feel. We would never wish somebody a "happy funeral." You would never wish somebody a "happy memorial service" for a loved one. Why do we do this for Memorial Day?
Sadly it’s because it has turned into that celebration I just wrote about. Celebrating the time off. Celebrating the break from the norm and the hard work. It makes us forget the real reason.
And yes at the risk of sounding preachy, and I’m no better than anybody and I really don’t mean to come off that way, we should all remember the truly hard work these people went through only to never come home again. Never grow up. Never grow old. To never say goodbye to their loved ones. To hug their children one last time.
All for a country they loved and ultimately all for us now.
So can we please stop saying "Happy Memorial Day?" Can it be replaced with something else? Have a thoughtful Memorial Day? Have a meaningful Memorial Day? Or perhaps there are no words. Perhaps we should leave it at "enjoy your weekend." And leave Memorial Day wishes as silent as the graves and tombs it stands for.