By "celebrate appropriately," I'm not referring to not drinking and driving after the barbecue (although you should never drink and drive!); rather, I'm asking that you please take a moment (or longer) to recognize the lives and sacrifices of those who serve or have served in our armed forces, and to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty.
I never really understood Memorial Day when I was growing up. To me, it was that day in the spring that we drove from cemetery to cemetery and put flowers on the graves of relatives whose names I vaguely recognized. I was routinely told how important it was for us to do that, but all I knew was that I had to waste what usually turned out to be a gorgeous day being forced to hear about this dead uncle or that dead cousin.
I'll be honest, I'd like to think that I'd finally understand it otherwise, but my brother's service in the US Army has really shown me the importance of Memorial Day. Through the magic of Facebook, I've seen numerous posts today in memory of soldiers and Marines killed in action. Every one of the men whom I've read about today was someone's son, and most were husbands and brothers, too, and but for the grace of God, my brother might have been one of those to remember today.
I appreciate the sacrifices that our service personnel make, ranging from being stationed in inconvenient places and the long (and sometimes unusual) hours on duty to the possibility of being deployed, injured, and possibly killed. I am thankful for what they do, and I feel that most Americans are as well. But to me, Memorial Day is not necessarily about being thankful to our military for what they do (isn't that more what Veterans' Day is for?). Rather, I think Memorial Day is *the* day for us to honor our fallen soldiers (and sailors, Marines, and airmen).
Why is this important? Well, when someone joins the military and takes on the possibility of being deployed and put in harm's way, it is our responsibility to make sure that their sacrifice is not unnecessary. Don't get me wrong, if we could live in a perfect world of sunshine and butterflies where nobody had to fight for anything, then I would love not having to send people off to war. However, as a realist, I know that there have been Hitlers and slavery in this world, and that there are some things worth fighting (and sending people off to die) for. In a democratic republic, we owe it to our military to elect responsible leaders who will utilize our military judiciously, and won't needlessly risk their lives. Our leaders also have to give the military the proper tools with which to do their jobs.