Memorial Day. You could write an entire library on the controversies we face right now as a nation, and surprisingly, one of the arguments is over what we should be doing during this important holiday. The question becomes: How do we honor those who fight, those who fought, and those who have fallen without necessarily tying ourselves to a cause we don’t believe in? It may be hard to do at a news network or in our personal Facebook comments, but at home, simple messages can be sent loud and clear using photos, vintage signs and other interior and exterior wall hanging and decor.
You’re Allowed to Be Upset
As the most armed nation on the planet, as individuals, we often forget that soldiers and their families may or may NOT be attached personally to the message and meaning of a war. Service families may agree with the dialog coming from DC or Congress, or may not. And it’s none of anyone’s business whether they do or don’t. There are places where it makes sense to voice your concerns and how passionate you are either for or against a war. That place is not at a US veteran’s dinner table, barbecue, funeral, picnic, or anywhere they are. Thank them for their service simply and authentically, the end.
You don’t have to agree or disagree with a war to be upset about the human collateral. You don’t have to take a side to have tears jerked from your eyes when watching a deployed soldier surprise his daughter at a school play, or watch a deployed mom say happy birthday to her two-year-old over Skype while the sounds of drones buzz by in the background.
You are allowed to be upset, however, understand the context you’re in and speak from there with humility and respect. Come to peace with this grief by communing and being part of your community and make an effort to remember we ALL must serve in some way to make this country great, not just those in uniform.
You’re Allowed to Grieve
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." For those with lost loved ones or families dealing with the issues that become part of daily life, the ugliness of battle is hard to disconnect from. Looking at the way war can ravage the human heart and its physical manifestations are unbelievably only the beginning. For every scar, lost limb, lost heartbeat, there is a deeper, wider ripple in a concentric circle around the life of the lost serviceperson. And then there is the nationwide sense of sadness that ties us all together. Shine a light into peoples' hearts to reduce this sadness: pick up their dinner tab, be part of a toy drive, and communicate from equal footing, remembering we are all alive and all connected.
You are allowed to be a patriot
Being patriotic doesn't always look the way you think it might. Simply asking someone if they need help is patriotic. Always make an effort to be part of the solution — if you're lucky enough to be American, treat that privilege with equal accountability and warmth.
Celebrate Memorial Day every day of the year
You can do this with wall hanging flowers next to your photos of loved ones, by buying from veteran-owned businesses, by simply opening up your heart and mind to real, human conversation, by giving lots of hugs, or by using your free speech to say, “I don’t know what else to say, except thank you.” Use your humanity and your human experience to embrace your own story and let it be told without exception, without restraint, and without candy coating. Being forthright and always being willing to help — that's what being American is really about.