Proper Memorial Day Etiquette

I dread the arrival of Memorial Day for a rather petty reason.  Every year some well-intentioned friend or family member will post a remembrance piece on Facebook, which is a good thing.  But then they go ahead and tag all the Veterans in their life, including yours truly.

While I appreciate the noble intent, Memorial Day is not for me.  I came home.

This solemn day is when we take a moment out of our lives to remember the men and women who gave their lives in distant lands for a cause that they may or may not have believed in.  They went when most of us did not and did not come back when most others did.

I am not so militant that I believe the American people should cease with the host of traditions that are unrelated to the meaning of the day.  I don’t believe grilling red meat and enjoying frosty malted beverages desecrates the graves of my fallen brothers and sisters.  I mostly believe that because family get-togethers and backyard barbecues are, on some level, what they were fighting for.

Whatever your tradition is, do it without guilt.  Throw the family in the car and drive down to Bar Harbor before the tourists arrive in droves.  Go open up camp and get ready for another fun-filled summer on the lake.  Plant your gardens and mulch your flower beds.  Just carve out a little time to remember.

If you’re patriotic, seek out your local Memorial Day ceremony.  Take an hour out of your day to listen to the traditional speeches, prayers, and steel yourself for the 21-gun salute.

If you don’t like to leave the house, then proudly fly the flag.  Just remember, on this day it should be at half-staff until noon as a sign of mourning for the fallen.  But at noon hoist it swiftly to the top where it can wave proudly that our nation endures because of their sacrifice.

If you’re a parent, explain to your children what this day means.  I can give you some pointers, but it really needs to be in your words.  They went and you did not.  Remember that.

And if you really want to drive the point home, learn as much about a local fallen hero as you can and teach it to someone else.  Check out the Maine Honor Roll of those who have died during the Post-9/11 era.  Each of them have a story.  Honor them by learning it and telling it.

This week, as we lead up to Memorial Day weekend, I will post frequently to tell the stories I know of fallen comrades who I think of on this day.  They will date from the Civil War to the lagging fight in Afghanistan.  All have some meaning to me.

I will not tell you the stories of five soldiers and airmen who I think of most on this day.  These friends will be remembered in my own private ceremony.  There will likely be charred burgers, reviewing of photo albums, and loud unpatriotic music.  And there are always a few shots of Jeremiah Weed.  It’s what we would have done if we were still together.

Clifford M. Gray

About Clifford M. Gray

I grew up in Enfield and moved to the Bangor area in junior high. I enlisted in the US Air Force Immediately after graduating from Hampden Academy. During my 20-year career I served in intelligence, command & control, and the Air Force's history and museum program. Following my retirement I completed my undergraduate at California State University, Chico, with a BA in History and Social Science. I returned to Maine last year to attend graduate school. I currently work as a veteran advocate in the area of peer support.