Ever since I first picked up a trombone in 4th grade, I have played in the Memorial Day Services in my hometown or surrounding towns. The services were either at a cemetery or a park and all the local music kids would tote their instruments into the heat and play a few patriotic songs before being relieved of their duties for some form of a Memorial Day celebration.
In years past, I’ve spent Memorial Day in the town my dad grew up at with his side of the family. We typically have a big cookout and my aunt makes a mean corn salsa dip. There’s always lots of dogs and plenty of pleasant conversation. Sometimes, we even go out onto the river in boats to soak up the sun or dive in when the heat becomes too much.
Last Memorial Day, I attended a service in the park by my house with my father. It was a lovely tribute, the musicians sounded great, and the speakers were eloquent as ever. Then at the height of the ceremony, they released a swarm of doves.
As taps rung out across the country of Western PA, dozens of doves flew skyward. It was beautiful…until – as everyone was following their path – one dove flew straight into a lamp post. There was a resounding “THUD!” followed by an audible “Oh!” from the crowd below. The bird spiraled for a second before continuing his descent into the sky, unfazed.
So yeah, I guess the way we celebrate Memorial Day can be traditional. Or it can be fun. Or it can be funny and unexpected (I promise, the bird was fine).
But if there’s one thing everyone’s Memorial Day should be, it’s reverent.
Memorial Day is all about remembering the men and women who died while serving in our country’s armed forces – the men and women who died to allow us to have the freedoms we take for granted each day – the men and women who allow us to safely consume copious amounts of corn salsa, swim in the rivers without a care, and watch amazing parades and services from the parks where we grew up.
Sure, it’s nice to have a long weekend. It’s amazing to feel the excitement in the air on the unofficial start of summer. But it’s even more incredible to think about the sacrifices our friends, family, and neighbors have made to get us to this point.
At some point tomorrow, I hope you pause and appreciate all those who have done so much so that we may be free.
Happy Memorial Day, everyone.