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Why Memorial Day Is Heavy – Not Happy

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Why Memorial Day Is Heavy – Not Happy

I’ve visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. It was raining that day. Fitting. I remember the heaviness I felt as I wondered how many families and friends lost a loved one and had no resolution.

Although I know many, several in my own family, who have served our country in the various branches of the military, I don’t know anyone personally who fought and died at war. I have, however, watched others who have from a distance as they let go and grieved with such amazing grace. They know the price.

There’s a difference between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. Just from the titles of these two days you can see that, although they are both days where we express deep gratitude for our military, one is met with more of a joyful gratitude and the other with a  gratitude that grieves.

On Mother’s Day, we say “Happy Mother’s Day” as we celebrate moms while there are those who would love to be moms are left with empty arms. On Valentine’s Day, we say “Happy Valentine’s Day” for those who are famously in love while others who are unbearable lonely. I don’t feel like we always have to be politically correct on holidays but there simply has to be grace given to all who have differing backgrounds and life experiences. Today, some say “Happy Memorial Day” but for so many, it is not a happy day at all. This isn’t intended to be a downer post or bring shame to anyone, but Memorial Day really isn’t happy. I’ve probably said “Happy Memorial Day” in the past as well but after this day, for the sake of those who mourn, I will be more conscious of how I approach it.

Memorial Day 2016I witnessed my niece join the United States Army. She left her husband and young son to serve our country. Yes, she had personal reasons for doing so as well but at the end of the ceremony she had sworn in front of God and her family that she would be willing to die serving her country. My heart was heavy as was hers. It was not a happy day. The officer performing the swearing in ceremony gave orders to the new recruits to smile for their pictures. He said that the families would be needing to see those smiles in the months to come. The very act of smiling on this day was a sacrifice. I can promise you that no one present felt all smiley on the inside.

My heart has been heavy for loved ones who mourned while we shopped the Memorial Day sales.

My heart has been heavy for my sister who watched her baby girl bravely raise her right hand. She knows the value of that hug because she knows the price.

My heart has been heavy for my niece because, as we spent time with our families today, she was without hers enduring boot camp and contemplating the cost of her commitment.

I’d be willing to wager that for anyone who lost a loved one in service to our country for our freedom, today is not a happy day.

To all who have served and died for my freedom, thank you.
To all who may not have given their bodies in service but their souls instead, thank you.
To my niece and all who serve who are willing to die for my freedom, thank you.

Memorial Day John 15:13

Join me in remembering the fallen this Memorial Day. Our freedom cost them everything.

About Andrea

Writer+Proofreader+Traveler+Foodie+Dreamer. Let's walk and work together.

5 responses »

  1. I never thought of this before. Thank you for point out how much “happy” does not make sense when acknowledging this day. I plan on being more mindful of that from now on.


  2. You are so right. Memorial Day is a very somber day. Your words are right on. This Memorial Day, as past ones, I have written about my father who died while in the Navy and I was 12. Daddy is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. I also included in my post my husband who served in Vietnam and is alive today. We spoke about the Day on Memorial Day and I decided that I would quit including Ken on Memorial Day…only on Veterans Day. There truly is a difference and I want to acknowledge that on those days. I am a Navy child and respect our military so very much. I will be holding your niece in my prayers.
    Thanks for this thoughtful post about a day that is extremely serious for many. “Happy” it is not!


    • Wow. I’m so sorry about the loss of your dad. This is humbling and I am grateful for the sacrifice he made and that your family has had to make as well. Thanks for your comment. I hope my words didn’t come off sounding judgemental but conversational. I’m thankful for your husband’s service as well. Thank you so much for your prayers for my niece. We truly appreciate them!


  3. It’s like you were reading my thoughts, Andrea! When I heard people saying “Happy Memorial Day!” I know they meant well but it really tugged on my heart that it really ISN’T a happy day but an reflective, heavy, and emotional day.



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