Ceremony and Celebration on Memorial Day
Memorial Day is a day of contrasts.
This is easy to see at Arlington National Cemetery, a drive of about 40 minutes from our MicroPact office in Virginia. A lovely and solemn place, Arlington is particularly stirring on Memorial Day. The annual “Flags In” tradition honors service members buried there, with American flags placed at each gravesite.
More than 228,000 of the flags are placed in the span of 4 hours by the Army’s official ceremonial unit, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (the Old Guard). The United States flag is not subtle—it is bright and bold, and the flags are a splash of color against the stark white grave markers. The flags are a symbol of deep respect and thanks to those who have served. They are also undeniably festive.
That same kind of contrast can be seen in the way most Americans observe the holiday. Neighborhoods hold barbecues and block parties. The swimming pools open. Families take the long weekend and head to the beach. It can feel as though a holiday meant for remembering those who have died in service of the United States of America has been transformed into an excuse for a party.
But just as the flags at Arlington are both somber and celebratory, the serious purpose of Memorial Day can co-exist with barbecues and beach volleyball. Communities have parades and other public ceremonies. Families and individuals take time to decorate graves in remembrance of those who have died. And perhaps most significantly, the abandon with which we travel and gather to celebrate this day demonstrates and honors the freedoms that our military members serve, and sometimes die, to protect.
However you choose to commemorate this Memorial Day, take a moment to acknowledge both sides—the serious and the celebration. That contrast is an enduring part of this important holiday.
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