web analytics

Making Memorial Day More Memorable

Today is Memorial Day. Apologies for the “tongue twister” title, but it accurately captures my thinking here. I consider this a very special day. Here’s why…

Memorial Day is a national holiday here in the United States. For many, this means a long weekend, perhaps even time spent picnicking, grilling, and spending time with family and friends. While all these things may be true and enjoyable, this likely isn’t necessarily directly connected with the holiday or why it was created in the first place.

The History of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is celebrated annually on the last Monday of May to honor those who have died serving in the US Armed Forces, designated a Federal Holiday as part of the Uniform Holidays Bill in 1971. The practice of honoring the fallen dates back to the Civil War era when towns began adorning soldier graves with flowers, ribbons and flags. A national holiday, called Decoration Day, was declared in 1868 and ultimately changed to Memorial Day in 1882. Those who’ve worn the uniform continue to be honored through parades, prayer services, and visits to veterans and memorials across the United States.

My Practices

Over the course of many years, I’ve adopted a number of practices that help me celebrate the holiday in a way that is both personal and meaningful to me. Here are a few of them

Consuming Media

Whether it’s reading a book, listening to a podcast, or watching a documentary (e.g. YouTube video, TV show, movie, etc.), I often will consume some form of media representing the service and sacrifice of earlier generations of servicemembers. There are so many one can choose from, but a personal favorite of mine is “Band of Brothers.” Why? The first is that it is based upon the experiences of the (then) remaining survivors of “Easy Company,” documenting (as best as one can in cinema) their time in service during World War II.

One thing that I appreciate about it is that it shows people who lost their lives in action and garrison. The crass among us might think that this is merely a glorification of war and conflict. For me, it’s the exact opposite. I never want to be in a position where I take “war” for granted. Ultimately, wars are fought by people. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that most who’ve fought and survived would rather not have to. Many return from their experiences very different persons than they were before their service, bearing the scars from and living with the trauma associated with it.

Everyone who has served in uniform did so with the knowledge and awareness of the potential consequences of their service. They wrote a (proverbial) “blank check,” hoping it wouldn’t get cashed. For the vast majority, this has been the case. For me, Band of Brothers does as good a job as one can do to make visible the human, personal cost of war.

I sincerely hope anyone with authority to commit servicemembers to some task understands the price and consequences of such an ask.


As a person who has been lucky enough to enjoy life beyond their military service, I believe that each of my fellow citizens and I have been given a very precious gift — the opportunity to live their life in a manner of their choosing.

I will often ask myself a question:

“Am I living my life in a manner that is worthy and fitting of the sacrifices made by others allowing me enjoy my life and freedom?”

The question is not a rhetorical one; it’s a practical one. Each morning I am given a gift — the opportunity to live and fulfill a new day. To that, I am faced with choices about who I will be that day and to what ends I will devote my life energy. Who am I becoming that is worthy of the sacrifices others have made? If considered seriously, it’s a significant opportunity to make choices that make good on the many gifts we’ve been granted.

Closing Thoughts

A familiar and trite phase is “Freedom Isn’t Free.” I believe this to be true.

Memorial Day is a day for everyone who hasn’t made the “ultimate sacrifice” to remember those who have. We enjoy the freedom and liberty we have today because of the actions and sacrifices of those who came before us.

I do my best to remember this and live my life in a manner that is worthy of their sacrifices. Living this way is one of the highest forms and most direct ways of respecting and offering gratitude to those who’ve served.

I encourage you to join me.

4 thoughts on “Making Memorial Day More Memorable”

  1. Rodney Gisi

    Ken I always enjoy your heartfelt posts and true Patriotism. You truly understand a servants heart and I too never take for granted the sacrifices of those gone before us. In addition to remembering and memorializing them I feel it is incredibly important to honor them by continuing to fight for Freedom! It came at a cost for most of them. What are we willing to do to fight for it?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *