What are we supposed to remember?

Graves_at_Arlington_on_Memorial_DayWhen you look back on your family history, your own personal history and, perchance, your involvement or recollection of mankind’s events later deemed to be historical, what do you remember? More importantly, what are you sharing with young people, be they family or not, so that they know what they’re supposed to remember?

I’ve been thinking about memories and life events a lot lately, no doubt because of several that have happened to me. My eldest daughter recently turned 18, is about to graduate high school and will be a college student sooner than I will be able to comprehend. I got a notice the other day (on Facebook of all places), that reminded me 2015 is the year of my 30th high school class reunion. I had to nod and laugh when a classmate posted, “Wait, don’t we have 15 years until this happens?”

And today is Memorial Day — a holiday designed for us to remember those who have served and sacrificed in our name as the protectors of life and defenders of freedom.

I recently started keeping a list of things that kids today won’t understand as time passes and references made by my generation will lose their historical and sometimes humorous meaning.

I was originally going to write a post looking at how life has evolved so rapidly in the past 30 years, and how the next generation or two are more likely to take modern conveniences for granted even more than my generation has.

I’ll hit on that list in an upcoming blog post, but today isn’t about remembering things to laugh about. Today is about remembering those killed in action while serving their military, serving their country, and — whether you agreed with the cause or not — serving you.

imdb memorial dayI watched the movie Memorial Day (again) last night because my wife hadn’t seen it yet and it seemed apropos to see on Memorial Day Weekend. It wasn’t a high-action summer blockbuster so you may not have heard about it, but it’s a well-done tale of two soldiers, one who serves in Iraq in the mid-2000s, as well as his grandfather, who served in WWII. It’s not a war movie so much as it is about the memories of war and sharing them (or not) with family.

Without giving any spoilers not already available from the movie’s summary paragraph, a key moment occurs early in the film in a conversation between the WWII vet and his grandson when the boy asks about the war. Initially, the grandfather is extremely reluctant to share any tales, but then this exchange occurs:

Grandson: “It’s Memorial Day.”

Grandpa: “You’re damn straight it is.”

Grandson: “What am I supposed to remember?”

That’s what gets the grandfather talking — the realization that people don’t know what they’re supposed to remember if generations don’t pass on stories and information about a time that was and will never be again. We must never forget why we celebrate Memorial Day, which is to honor those who died while serving in the military. Do not confuse it with Veterans Day or, as has become more commonplace unfortunately, as the official start of summer vacation season. Please lower your flags to half-staff, because that’s more important than lowering the cover of your grill for your backyard feast. Because Memorial Day is different from other flag holidays, you also need to raise the flag at noon, which is more important than raising a beer to celebrate summer.

It’s Memorial Day. Today is about remembering those who have given the last sacrifice, who deserve to have a tear shed for them and their families, and who have earned our greatest measure of respect.

May they all rest in peace.

(Photos courtesy of IMBD and Wikipedia.)