Hot dogs and burgers on the grill, potato salad, and baked beans, cold drinks chilling in the cooler; just a few signs of a family BBQ celebration in the works. Memorial Day is oftentimes celebrated by many across America, with our family and friends getting together, eating our favorite picnic foods, throwing back a cold one and listening to some tunes and having a good ‘ol time.
Without fail across social media, you’ll see images like this reminding us that Memorial Day is NOT National BBQ Day. Well, I agree and I also disagree.
I have family members on both sides of my family who has served our country. It is a proud heritage and one that I wouldn’t dream of dishonoring. My Grandpa, Kenneth Thomas, fought in WWII and was a very brave soldier who saved many lives. He saw a lot of disturbing things in the war and as a result, he suffered tremendously from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and it carried well into his married life. When my mother was at the tender age of 12 it finally took him. It devastated her and her entire family and haunts them still today. I remember hearing stories of what kind of man he was before the war and it always touched me knowing what could’ve been had he not been through what he did. I read many of his poems and was inspired to write poetry at a young age because of his writings. I named my first born son Thomas as a way to honor his memory. My uncle (my mother’s brother) fought in Vietnam, he too suffered from PTSD and it took his life some years ago as well. The battlefield isn’t the only place where soldiers’ lives are lost you see. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that May is Mental Health Awareness month. It’s not just the soldiers who suffer either. (If you have lost a family member to PTSD please know you are not alone, there is help and support groups for you as well)The battlefield isn’t the only place where soldiers’ lives are lost. Click To Tweet
Why I’m ok with celebrating Memorial Day weekend with a BBQ
So why would I find it okay to celebrate Memorial Day weekend with BBQ’s? Because my family and those who served and lost their lives didn’t go to war so that we would sit in our homes with the windows barred up and our doors barricaded; in fact, they went to war so that we wouldn’t have to live our lives that way. They want us to enjoy the freedom they fought so hard to preserve. They want us to go outside and spend time as a family to enjoy our friendships we’ve made, to continue to preserve peace throughout our country and enjoy the rights we have that so many other countries do not. To attend any church we choose, to vote for any candidate we see fit, to speak our minds when a wrong needs to be made right, to walk the streets without scorn, to wear what we want to wear and be who we want to be and feel the freedom that has been given us.
Freedom isn’t free
That freedom that we enjoy every day, no it didn’t come free. It most certainly came with a price; a very dear one. We pay for it still and don’t even realize it. Our military is always on guard, watching ever watching. That’s what they do best and that’s why I’ll be serving up my kids their hot dogs and potato salad on a paper plate this weekend and not feel the least bit guilty.
Come Monday we will still be walking solemnly through a local cemetery, placing flags on the graves of soldiers, just like my mom and Grandma use to take us to the cemetery every Memorial Day to visit our loved ones and remember our veterans. I’ll tell them about their Grandpa and their Uncle and why my son was named after his Great Grandpa. The story he’s heard a hundred times but he loves to hear it still. I only pray that by the time he’s a Grandpa that he can tell the same story to his grandchildren under the same freedom we enjoy today.
Now if you don’t mind I’ve got some burgers on the grill that need tending too. Enjoy your weekend everyone; It’s what my Grandpa would’ve wanted I’m sure of it. He wrote this poem many years ago in honor of Memorial Day. It’s not even his best work, he had a notebook full of his amazing poems we hope to publish someday, but I love the message it carries and hope you will too:
“That these dead shall not have died in vain!”
Do you recall Lincoln’s phrase?
Those deathless words he uttered
in those dark and dreadful days?
And those dead that day of whom he spoke
are not the only ones,
For since that day at Gettysburg
we’ve given many sons.
To appease the hungry God of war
when he rears his ugly head
Claims as his price, the sacrifice,
of all the wounded and the dead.
The tyrants of the world decreed
and tried to justify,
That if we’d save our way of life
many men must die.
And so we have Memorial Day
to pay a portion of our debt
To those who gave their very lives
and whom sometimes we forget.
A day set aside in memory
of our dear departed sons,
Who fought the foe that threatened us
and faced the violent guns.
They did not choose a hero’s death,
nor did they falter when it came.
They faced the future hopefully,
they sought not name or fame.
When they were young and dreaming dreams
it wasn’t figured in their plan,
To sacrifice their precious life,
but each faced it like a man.
So in memory we’ve named this day
to pay homage once again.
To decorate–to consecrate–to pray
that they did not die in vain.
-Jess Thinkun –
May is Mental Health Awareness Month
Want to make a difference to a wounded vet? Donate here today at Wounded Warriors.
Struggling with depression and/or anxiety and not sure where to turn? There are many places you can turn too for help:
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Are you contemplating suicide and don’t know where to turn? Please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately at 1-800-273-8255
Please know you are NEVER truly alone!