Reflecting on Memorial Day
BY ALEXANDER ALEX, LT COL, USAF, MSC (RET) DIRECTOR, VETERAN HEALTH PROGRAM
This weekend is Memorial Day weekend in the United States. Memorial Day is a solemn occasion where we honor service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in military service to our country. It’s a day where we honor our fallen in pursuit of freedom and liberty from the first shot fired at Lexington on April 19, 1775. Since then over 1 million Americans have lost their lives defending the ideals of American democracy. These are the people we honor and memorialize as a nation.
A number of years ago while I was still in uniform, someone once wished me a “Happy Memorial Day,” and it made me pause on the word “happy” as if this was a joyful event. I thought perhaps we’ve conditioned ourselves over time to treat this day as a celebration rather than the solemn occasion of remembrance, honoring and being thankful to these individuals for their bravery and commitment. After all, a veteran losing a comrade in war or a family that has lost a loved one, to them every day is Memorial Day. To me this day represents a time that I recall the history and struggle for democracy. The actions of the fallen is the high price we pay for the privilege of being a free people; in a world that continues to challenge our very right to exist as a nation, to exercise our rights and achieve our full potential collectively and as individuals.
So yes, let’s celebrate and be happy we are diversely a free country, and let’s exercise every right we have. However, let’s take one day and one moment in that day to honor and memorialize the sacrifices of our fellow fallen Americans.
About the Author
Alexander Alex, Lt. Col., U.S. Air Force, MSC (Ret.), is the director of Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Veteran Health Program.