“More important than how somebody honors the troops is having an appreciation of the fundamental freedom for which the military fights.”
The three-day weekend seems to be the new American tradition, and my daughter and I have very special plans. Unfortunately, the tradition seems to be accompanied by a new one that calls for lots of social media shaming. In various encounters, I’ve seen individuals attacked for wishing a “happy” holiday, which doesn’t properly honor the fallen. (It never affects me directly—as a Marine veteran from a double gold star family, I’ve got enough street cred to avoid that crap.) While the desire to remember veterans on Memorial Day is good, public shaming on social media is a very shallow way to do it and misses a very important point about freedom.
As I’ve discussed, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the continued efforts in the war on terror increasingly fall on a small number of people and families. Unlike the immediate aftermath of the mass draft in World War II and Vietnam, less than one percent of Americans currently serve in the military. This heavy burden on a relatively small population means that many Americans want to honor service men and women but don’t know how. This disconnect often forces people beyond praise into uncritical hero worship. Combined with a culture that often involves high-tech lynchings, venting rants, and skewed realities based on social media, this sometimes leads to people policing and shaming others for their apparent disrespect for the military.
A true respect and value for the military would mean a person researches and works hard to ensure that service men and women are properly trained, equipped, and deployed across the world. This true respect requires a good deal of reading, research, and thought but very little social media use. Facebook posts shaming others for barbecuing on Memorial Day is a shallow and frankly pathetic attempt to honor the troops. It’s like trying to fight terrorism by putting a French flag filter on your Instagram profile or trying to save kidnapped women by tweeting a hashtag.
More important than how somebody honors the troops is having an appreciation of the fundamental freedom for which the military fights. America is so amazing that it even grants the freedom to its citizens to burn its flag. That freedom also includes not honoring veterans on Memorial Day weekend. That is not particularly grateful behavior, but true freedom doesn’t force people into honoring it or the soldiers that sacrificed for it.
With the holiday weekend arriving, I would remind those tempted to shame others on social media that barbecuing and enjoying the holiday with family is a perfectly acceptable way to use the freedom that so many fought for. So feel free to celebrate the holiday weekend however you would like.
Personally, I enjoy the free hot dogs and soda at the local furniture store. I hope your celebration includes remembering the fallen service men and women, but I hope even more that you take the time to appreciate the freedom they fought for by spending time with your family in peace.