For most Americans, Memorial Day weekend is a time for visiting relatives, backyard barbecues, getting together with friends and enjoying an extra day off from work.
For those serving and those who have served, however, it is a time to remember our battle buddies who didn’t come home. It is a time to salute the service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.
Whichever group you may belong to, Memorial Day weekend is statistically one of the most dangerous of the year. Whether it is too much celebrating at those barbecues with friends or too many toasts to those we’ve lost, the number of drunk drivers on the road is usually higher than other federal holidays, according to the National Safety Council.
Which is why I implore everyone to think twice before drinking and driving this weekend. We don’t need another brother or sister to mourn when we should be remembering what this day is all about.
Originally called “Decoration Day,” a day of remembrance for those we’ve lost in the nation’s wars is believed to have begun prior to the Civil War. It was adopted by all states after the Civil War and slowly became known as Memorial Day, but it did not become a federal holiday until 1968.
It is officially observed on the last Monday in May.
For those who have served in every conflict since World War II, it is almost impossible to not know someone who gave their lives for our nation. Every day is Memorial Day for us, as we keep the names of our battle buddies always in our hearts.
As we remember them, it is important for us to continue to live — to celebrate our accomplishments, pick ourselves and each other up when we’re down and strive to leave the world a better place than we found it. I believe it is what our battle buddies would want from us; they gave their own lives so we could live ours. The least we can do for them is honor that imperative.
But let us not become a statistic this weekend. Our battle buddies would not want to share a pint on Fiddler’s Green so quickly due to an ill-made decision to drink and drive. And they certainly would not want us to live with the agony of having been the cause of someone else’s loss of life through our actions.
So take the time this weekend to celebrate the lives of the men and women who gave their lives for our freedom. Visit their graves. Attend the barbecues.
And head back to work on Tuesday whole and sound. It’s what they would want from us.
David A. BRYANT is an Army retiree and a military journalist for the Killeen Daily Herald. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7554.