'Happy' Memorial Day? Really?

May 25, 2017 01:30

By Dan Shelley, RTDNA Incoming Executive Director
 
“Happy Memorial Day.” Or, “Have a happy Memorial Day weekend.”
 
How many times have you said it? How many times have your anchors and reporters said it to their viewers and listeners?
 
No doubt, they are well-meaning and seemingly innocuous phrases. After all, it’s commonly considered the first three-day weekend of summer, filled with picnics and fun at the lake. It’s a day off from work, for many. Retailers turn it into another opportunity to have big sales.
 
All of those are good reasons that you would want people to be happy. But you may not realize that wishing someone a “happy” Memorial Day is offensive to many, especially to some who have lost loved ones in the armed services.
 
This week a friend called my attention to this post on the Facebook timeline of one of her acquaintances (used with permission):
 

Memorial Day and Veterans Day are observed - not celebrated. Please remember, "Happy Memorial Day" is a very cringe-worthy and unacceptable statement. Thanks for understanding.
 
The following, shared from [a] Gold Star father, … lays out the meanings quite well. Thank you.
 
There are four main days set aside to honor and remember our military and there is a lot of confusion with and between these 4 days. … We as Americans should know it's not about the sales at department stores. …
 
May 20, 2017: Armed Forces Day
CURRENTLY ACTIVE SERVING
Celebrated on the third Saturday of every May, Armed Forces Day honors Americans serving in the military 
 
May 29, 2017: Memorial Day 
Observed on the final Monday of May, Memorial Day is the most widely recognized holiday out of the May military-themed observances. It began after the Civil War to remember the soldiers who fell on both sides during the war, but grew to commemorate all WHO DIED SERVING THE MILITARY.
 
September 15, 2017: National POW/MIA Recognition Day 
PRISONERS OF WAR AND STILL MISSING IN ACTION
Recognized third Friday of September 
It honors those who were prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action.
 
November 11, 2017: Veterans Day 
ALL WHO HAVE SERVED
Always on November 11 no matter what day it lands on. [It] is a public holiday that is dedicated to honoring anyone who has served in the United States military.

According to the website usmemorialday.org, which is administered by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the origins of Memorial Day date back to May 5, 1868, when Gen. John Logan, national commander of the U.S. Grand Army of the Republic, issued General Order No. 11.
 
It directed members of the Armed Forces of the United States to honor their fallen comrades on May 30 of that year. It was an observance to be called Decoration Day, later amended by Congress in 1971 to be known officially as Memorial Day and to be observed on the last Monday of every May. Among other things, Logan’s order said:
 
Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.
 
No mention of cookouts or water skiing or trips to the mall there.
 
There’s nothing wrong with having fun on Memorial Day weekend, just as there’s nothing wrong with families using the holiday to remember all of their relatives who have died, regardless of whether they served in the military.
 
And I’m not a curmudgeon about this. Nor am I attempting to be the PC police. I merely call this to your attention as a reminder of what Memorial Day was intended to be about.
 
Maybe anchors and reporters should wish their viewers a listeners a “safe” Memorial Day weekend. That’s what I do, because I really do want people to be safe during what the National Safety Council said in 2014 was the second deadliest holiday of the year (behind only Independence Day).
 
I also want to avoid offending those for whom the original meaning of the observance remains sacred.