Have big plans for Memorial Day? Going to the beach? Having a cookout? While having a fun is not the purpose for Memorial Day, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time on the holiday. But while doing so, surely you could take a least one moment out of your day to remember those serving their country whose time on this Earth ran out prematurely. a
Memorial Day became a federal holiday back in 1971. Yet, a quarter of a century later in 1996, a boatload of U.S. citizens still hadn’t figured out what it was for. (Hint: It’s MEMORIAL Day.) A Gallup Poll taken in May 1996 showed only 28% of Americans knew the meaning of the federal holiday. Even worse, a group of kids touring Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. that same month erroneously thought the meaning of Memorial Day was that it was when pools opened for the summer. Let’s give those school children a big fat “F” in civics.
For those who failed civics, Memorial Day was set as a time to remember and honor military personnel who died in performance of their military duties serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The holiday is observed on the last Monday in May; in 2021, that day is May 31st.
The significance of Memorial Day is greater the more that is known about American history. Let’s take World War II for example. Even if someone wasn’t alive during that conflict, everyone is familiar with it from media exposure whether that be television (“Hogan’s Heroes” and “McHale’s Navy”), movies (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Fury,” and “Darkest Hour”), or books (Flags of our Fathers and War and Remembrance). While we may be entertained by stories set during World War II, we should also be aware it was the deadliest conflict in history with 3% of the world’s population, some 70-85 million people, killed. Of those deaths, U.S. military personnel accounted for 407,300 of them, a figure that is larger than the estimated population of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2017And where would Americans be today without the sacrifices of those men and women killed during that horrible war? Would we be speaking German? Japanese?
But the impact of the number of casualties was not merely on those who were killed. Each death was of an individual who was a child of someone, and that parent suffered the devastating loss of his/her child. Siblings, significant others, and friends also experienced loss. How uncaring are we if we do not recognize those losses and heartache suffered as a result of duty to one’s country–your country and my country?
In the abstract, it may be difficult to mourn for people we don’t know. So, let’s put a face on the faceless to help you. We’ll start with name, rank, and serial number: Joseph A. Doyle, Jr., First Lieutenant, O-828978. He served in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a pilot with the 757th Bomber Squadron, 459th Bomber Group, Heavy. Lt. Doyle entered the service from the state of South Carolina, but he never returned to the Palmetto State. Lt. Doyle died in a plane crash in Italy during World War II and was buried in the 77 acre Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy along with 7,844 of his comrades in arms. Who is this man? He’s my Uncle Joe, a man I never had the honor of meeting. A man whose loss deeply hurt my mother, his sister with whom he was very close. They are the two people in the picture at the top of this post.
So how can we honor my Uncle Joe and all those other men and women who gave their lives for us? Note that United States is abbreviated U.S. which letters spell “us.” A country is made up of its people, and we the people were the reason these military members served and died. The least we can do is give them a moment of our time on Memorial Day–literally a moment.
The National Moment of Remembrance Act , Public Law 106-579, December 28, 2000, established a specified time for Americans to pause for a moment of silence at 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day. Why pause? To demonstrate gratitude to those who died for our freedom. This time was chosen because it is a time of day when most Americans are likely to be making the most of their freedoms. It is a symbolic act of unity for all to pause for 60 seconds. This action is simple really. Just do as Diana Ross and The Supremes urge and “Stop! In The Name Of Love.” The fallen gave up years of their lives. Can’t we manage to show some love and honor and give up 60 seconds to remember that?
What are you supposed to do for those 60 seconds? How you remember and honor the fallen is up to you. Perhaps you can reflect on the horrors of war and what they had to endure to serve us. You might say a pray of thanks for brave and selfless men and women who had a sense of honor and duty. It will take slightly more than a minute, but I’d encourage you to listen to “Taps” being played. That haunting song will surely stir you to recognize the toll which military service often takes. A link to a military produced video of the tune can be found below.
I am looking forward to an enjoyable holiday on the 31st. But I will not forget to remember what the day is about. I will be flying my American flag, I will say a prayer of thanks for Uncle Joe and all those who have served and died for our country, I will pause for a moment of silence at 3:00 p.m., and I will listen to “Taps” with a catch in my throat. Please don’t forget to remember the meaning of the day.
Do you know or are you related to anyone who gave his/her life during performance of military service? What’s the best way to honor someone who made the ultimate sacrifice for his/her country? Were you aware a National Moment of Remembrance was established? If so, how have you observed it?