|CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq, May 23, 2008 – Not
long ago while I was sitting at my desk at work, a fellow
soldier presented an interesting question, not because of
what it was, but because of why he asked it.
"So what's Memorial Day, again?" the
This kind of disturbed me. As it turns out, the confusion
came from the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans
Day. While both are federal holidays to remember our
nation's servicemembers past and present, only one
commemorates the living.
The one that doesn't is May 26, the last Monday in May. That
one would be Memorial Day. I just never thought I'd have to
explain that to someone.
When Memorial Day comes around, a lot of thoughts rush to
mind. Memories of picnics with the family, maybe catching
the Indianapolis 500 on TV with a cold beverage in hand or
enjoying the sun at a nearby public pool that just opened
for the summer -- all of which are easily recognizable
Memorial Day traditions. All the while, the true meaning of
Memorial Day remains hidden in the back of our minds -- if
it's even there at all.
Commemoration ceremonies and remembrances take place all
over the United States on Memorial Day. We all know it's a
holiday. It's a day off work, and it's got something to do
with wars. Most people my age won't be seen at events like
those. I know I've never been to my town's festivities --
not often, at least.
Four years ago, I would have been the last one to say I
wanted to take time during the day commonly referred to as
the beginning of summer to fill my head with sad memories of
our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who never made it
home. That was then. Three years ago, I was about 60
kilometers north of here on Logistics Support Area Anaconda
near Balad for Memorial Day, and this year, I'm in Baghdad.
To me and a lot of other servicemembers braving the sand,
heat and bullets in Iraq, Memorial Day carries a new meaning
-- to remember not only those servicemembers we know only by
the names on their tombstones at Arlington National
Cemetery, but also the ones with whom we've shared meals and
laughs while trying to make the best of discomfort.
I'm fortunate enough to say that I haven't lost a friend
over here, but as my job takes me from unit to unit, the
list of acquaintances grows -- and more than a few might not
make it home.
Three years ago, I knew Memorial Day would have a whole new
meaning for me -- and it truly does -- because it could just
as easily have been my name stretched across a banner for
hometown heroes lost in battle.
One day, I'm sure I'll hear that question again: “Which one
is Memorial Day?” or something of the sort. Unlike most
people, I'll have a unique story to tell -- just as we all