Memorial Day weekend 2021. Rainy, cold weather in PA provides an excellent opportunity to think about our predecessors who gave their souls to protect and preserve our great country. It is a great country – one where our freedom and opportunities to do one’s own thing prevails – at least for some. But today, I lament a bit about what freedom in the US has become.

Freedom to lie; freedom to discriminate; freedom to kill; freedom to tote guns and stockpile high-velocity weapons; freedom to manipulate people; freedom to disrespect—the latter most devastating. The lack of respect for individuals – and our democracy – is simply remarkable. How else can you explain people storming our revered Capital Building or the reluctance of people to obtain vaccinations or wear masks in consideration of others?

Joining a line of 10 or so in a store yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice all eight employees masked up; 8 of us in the line wore masks; 2 in line wore no masks – one wearing a sweatshirt with a US flag on it. The other busy with his phone. Freedom – to care only about themselves.

Today I’m thinking especially of the sacrifices of the people living through the enormous challenges of participating in wars. I think of many suffering from PTSD without really knowing it. Multi-year absences – I can’t imagine what it was like to say goodbye to a loved one without any idea when or if a return would even happen—sacrificing and respecting one’s obligation to serve our country in any way possible. To me, that is what Memorial Day should be about—giving pause to remember the heroes of that “great generation” and beyond who protect our real freedoms – equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

A comment by one of my granddaughters hit me as she described Memorial Day as not much of a holiday – one that has lost its meaning. As a country, we need to work on that for today’s young people and future generations. Memorial Day should be more than a passing thought.

I remember the parades honoring our heroes. I remember school ceremonies to commemorate veterans who sacrificed their lives for us. I remember people who never recovered from serving their country and lived a frustrating, complicated life following their war-time experiences. I think especially of three people – one struggling through life’s challenges after WWII duty while suffering with no support except for a bottle; one suffering from Vietnam War trauma who took his life; one losing his life at a very young age in Vietnam, leaving his young wife to deal with it—sacrificing, respecting, honoring freedom for others.

We need to respect each other and our country. We need to restore the importance of truth and equality while eliminating hate and the guns that go with it. We have a lot of work to do, and I sure hope we can all begin by honoring heroes past whom we should remember throughout this holiday weekend. I am…and I hope you are, too.

Stay safe…